Espresso Machines Reviews 2017


I’m on the market for a new espresso machine, so I’m reading a lot of reviews at the moment, and watching the YouTube reviews etc., and I thought I’d share with you the various machines I’ve been looking at, and the impression I’ve got of them judging by everything I’ve discovered. I’ll also share a bit later in this post, some tips I’ve discovered for best using the reviews.

My Gaggia Classic.

My Gaggia Classic.

I have a Gaggia classic at the moment, the most important features for me at the time were that it could pull a good quality shot and that it’s compact, and has a decent sized drip tray and water tank. The Gaggia earns a high score for all of the above, and the steam want can be modified to a professional style Rancilio Silvia steam wand for about £12, so I think it’s a great machine for the money.

I specifically went for a pre-2009 machine made in Milan because I’d read that these were better made, and I thought since I was going for a used one, an older one might be a better bet, and it proved to be a good decision as this machine is spot on! Since the takeover initially by Saeco & then Philips in 2009, there have been various versions, and the general opinion among those who’ve gone to upgrade their Gaggia classic for a new one is “they don’t make em like they used to!”

At some point production was moved out of Milan, and different components have been used, and from what I can gather from the Amazon reviews, they’re not quite the same machines that they once were. In some ways it would appear that they’re better than they once were, the boilers are now much larger than the tiny boiler that my 2003 model has, but then there’s the complaints with regard the lack of solenoid valve and generally that lower grade components are being used.  I get the impression that that the newer models have been made to focus more on performance and less on durability. I have to say thought for an entry level espresso machine, they’re probably right to put more effort into ensuring that the machine performs well than they are in ensuring it performs well for years.

The older machines on the other hand really were made to last! Mine is 2003, and you would think it had just come out of the box, it’s amazing that this machine is 13 years old, it performs and looks like I’ve bought it new.

You can read my full review of the Gaggia classic here, but in a nutshell I’m really happy with it for the money. I’m just ready to upgrade now because I’m really into this home barista thing, and while I’m happy with the classic, it was a great machine to start with, but I need to upgrade now to a more capable machine.

Sometimes I’m making several coffees on the trot, trying to improve the shot and the latte art, this isn’t what the classic is made for. The boiler is tiny so it’s not the best for steaming lots of milk. If all I was doing was making one or two coffees per day, and if I was happy with “great” and wasn’t chasing “perfect”, then I’d have no reason to upgrade.

So these are the machines I’m looking at, and what I’ve found about them in brief: By the way, if you’re looking at budget machines, we’ll get to them towards the end of the post, I started out looking at reviews for the budget machines but then decided against them, but I’ll get to that a bit later.

Rancilio Silvia:

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine Review.

I nearly went for this machine initially before going for the used Gaggia classic, but I was a bit skint at the time and decided rather than wait until I could afford a few hundred more, I’d just get a classic and mod the steam wand & then upgrade a few months later if needs be.

The best deal I can find for the Silvia in the UK at the time of writing is Bella Barista.

You might find them a bit cheaper from another supplier by the way buy just look at the reviews first, trust pilot, google reviews etc., as there are some suppliers who’re selling into the UK from other parts of Europe, they’re selling a bit cheaper and all is probably fine unless you come to need a repair or something, at which part you may struggle if your machine doesn’t have a UK warranty.

This isn’t an affiliate link, or a a promotion of any kind, I have no relationship with BellaBarista, but I’ve heard really good things about them, and they have great online reviews.

Going back to the Silvia, my impression of the machine from everything I’ve seen is that it’s a really good espresso machine, but that it is not the most forgiving of machines when it comes to ironing out imperfections from the user. That is, grinding, dosing and tamping needs to be spot on if you want your espresso to be spot on.

Many espresso machine buffs rate the Silvia as the entry level “proper espresso machine” or “prosumer machine”, and argue that the results you can get from it can be on a par with prosumer machines costing several hundreds more, but that it does require perfection from the operator if it’s perfection that you want in the cup, whereas pricier machines might be a bit more forgiving in terms of the skills of the operator.

It also requires a really good grinder from what I’ve heard, it’s not forgiving when it comes to dialling in, but I think the grinder is hugely important regardless of which espresso machine you go for. I’m very happy with my smart grinder pro, the Rancilio Rocky is often paired with the Silvia, and I’ve read reviews that they work very well together, and that would make sense of course given they’re made together.

The current version has a brass boiler and a steel element, and when they upgraded the machine to this format a couple of years back, this was when machine buffs started to see it as an entry level prosumer machine rather than a consumer espresso machine.

If you want to read a really in depth review of the silvia, check our this review on home barista.

Dimensions: 23.5cm wide, 29cm deep, 34cm tall.

Weight: 14 Kilos.

Price: £419 RRP. Available from Bella Barista for £389. Click here to check the best current price on Amazon

PID?: No, but you can fit one if you like.

What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel, boiler is brass.

Cup Clearance: 7.5 cm

Portafilter Size: 58mm

Sage Barista Express:

 

Sage Barista Express

I’m keen on the the Sage espresso machines, or Sage by Heston Blumenthal, to address them with their full celeb endorsed title ;-). They sent me their benchmark machine “The Oracle” to use for a week and to review, nearly a year ago. I loved the machine, really really clever thing, and also a thing of beauty, but I then started to get into the home barista thing, and this machine is a bit too automated for me now.

What I mean by that is that it grinds, auto tamps, auto doses and even auto steams, which is great if you’re looking for the perfect machine to bridge the gap between semi auto and full bean to cup, but if you’re wanting to develop some barista skills, the Oracle is probably a bit too clever.

What this did show me though is that Sage make really nice machines, and this lead me to buying the Sage smart grinder pro about 6 months ago, which is a fantastic grinder, and this has lead me to pay close attention to their other espresso machines as I’m trying to decide which to go for, as I know they make great machines, and I know they’re a nice company to deal with. For instance, last week after 6 months of use, the smart grinder started to make a bit of a strange sound, so I phoned sage.

I didn’t get a computer giving me a huge menu, and then a load of on hold music, I just got straight through to a very friendly fella, who told me what to do on the phone to check there wasn’t something jammed in the burrs. I did this, got back to them, they sent me a replacement felt washer the very next day. I put this on, the problem persisted, a couple of days later they sent out a brand new replacement smart grinder, and collected the other one. This isn’t because they know I’m a blogger by the way, because I saw this as a way to test their customer service, and I didn’t mention the blog until after they’d responded, so this is just the way they respond to all customers, and I can see this is the case by the kind of reviews Sage tend to get.

So anyway, when it comes to Sage machines, the Barista express is the first machine I’m considering. It’s usually about £550, which puts it at a similar price to the Rancilio Silvia in terms of RRP, it’s currently on offer here (Amazon) for £494. I’ve heard almost nothing but good about the Barista express, the only negative I have heard is that the built in grinder isn’t capable of quite as fine a grind as the smart grinder pro, which can make it tricky with some beans to grind fine enough for ristretto. This wouldn’t really matter to me as I have the smart grinder pro, but then it would seem a bit daft to have a machine with an integrated grinder and then use a separate grinder.

Dimensions: 38cm wide, 37cm deep, 35cm tall.

Weight: 10 Kilos.

PID?: Yes

What’s it made of? Case is plastic clad with stainless steel, boiler is stainless steel.

Cup Clearance: 10 cm

Portafilter Size: 53mm

Price: £549.99 RRP. Cheapest I’ve been able to find it is on Amazon for £494, Lakeland and John Lewis stock them, and they’re sometimes on offer, but I’ve not seen them as low as the Amazon price. You can also buy them directly from Sage appliances. Click here to see the current lowest offer on Amazon

This leads me nicely onto the next on my list of potential espresso machines:

 

Sage Dual Boiler:

Sage Dual Boiler Espresso Machine.

This machine has all the same amazing intelligent features as the Sage Oracle, but without the integrated grinder and the automated dosing, tamping and steaming, which makes it very appealing to me! I loved the Oracle when I had it for a week to review, but I just don’t want the automation, I want to develop some Barista skills – I do, though, want some of the really intelligent features that the Oracle has, and the dual boilers, and this is what the Dual boiler is about.

The PID on the dual boiler (and the oracle) is very, very clever, you can set brew temp, shot volume, shot duration, pre infusion, auto on and auto off, and you can use it to start the cleaning cycle.

The auto on and off feature really appeals to me! I get up, go downstairs, turn the machine on, then make my espresso 20 mins later. If I could set the machine to auto on, it would save me going downstairs and firing up the machine. I know that I could put a timer plug on any machine, but then what about priming the boiler? I suppose I could do that the night before, but anyway it would be great to just come downstairs and the espresso machine is heated up and ready.

The auto off feature is a great one too, if you’re anything like me and you leave the house and then think “hmm, did I turn off the espresso machine? I quite often have to nip home and just check, so it’s a good job I don’t work too far away from home.

The biggest difference of course between the Sage dual boiler and the Barista express, is the fact that it’s a dual boiler machine, which means you can start steaming milk while you’re pulling the shot. This isn’t a must for anyone who’s just starting out with an espresso machine, but as you go along you may find that having to pull your shot and steam your milk separately is a bit of a pain and makes the process much longer than if you could steam and pull the shot at the same time. I have to say, it’s not a huge problem for me having a single boiler, but it would be nice to be able to speed things up a bit, esprecially when I’m making more than one coffee at a time.

I’m not going to go into a full review of the dual boiler here, there are plenty of reviews online, and if you google Breville dual boiler review (they’re called Breville everywhere else, but there’s another firm in the UK already using the brand name hence the different brand name here) you’ll find lots of US reviews, there are some good video reviews on YouTube from Whole Latte Love, and Seattle Coffee Gear.

If you read the Amazon reviews it scores a very solid 4.7, but as I mentioned earlier about looking at individual posts rather than the overall score, you can see that the score is being hindered by a bizarre 2 star review by someone who is marking it 2 stars because they think Sage support is bad because they thought it was supposed to come with a grinder, which is clearly doesn’t – you can buy it as a package with the smart grinder pro, but anyway, nearly all of the other reviews are 5 star, and if you read them all, as I have,  you get the conclusion that this is a very good machine. It’s not cheap at £1200 RRP, it’s on offer at Amazon now at just over a grand (£1049 to be exact).

Dimensions: 38cm wide, 38cm deep, 40.5cm tall.

Weight: 15 Kilos.

PID?: Yes

What’s it made of? Case is plastic clad with stainless steel, boiler is stainless steel.

Cup Clearance: 10 cm

Portafilter Size: 58mm

Price: £1199.99 RRP. Best deal I can find is again, Amazon, £1049 currently, dispatched and sold by Amazon, not by a third party. Click here to see the current offer price on Amazon.

 

Expobar Leva Dual Boiler

Expobar Leva Espresso Machine.

 

There isn’t actually a great deal of competition when it comes to a dual boiler espresso machine at this kind of a price, there is quite a jump from around a grand to close to 2 grand, but one machine that really does interest me at a similar price point is the Expobar Leva dual boiler. I mean, look at it!! 😉

It just looks menacing, like it would spit espresso in your face if you pissed it off, haha. In fact, the name seems a bit wussy doesn’t it, giving how touch it looks? The name in other Markets for this machine is “Brewtus”, which makes more sense, but they can’t use that brand name in the UK for some reason.

Whatever it’s called, it does appear to be a seriously good machine. They’ve been around for a long time, well over a decade, and they’ve upgraded them over the years.

It comes with the famous E61 brew group, which is considered by many to be the benchmark group, you certainly wouldn’t expect to find this brew group on budget machines. It’s a heavy duty machine, all metal inside and out, copper boilers, serious steam power, big drip tray, and is available with a water tank or plumbed in. It has an inbuilt PID, and when you google for reviews, you find lots of very happy folk who have used this machine for a long time.

The standard version comes with a vibration pump, you can upgrade to rotary pump if preferred, I’ve read good things about this machine with both pumps, I think the rotary pump is quieter, and commercial machines would usually have rotary pumps rather than vibration, so I would think it’s worth the upgrade depending on the cost.

I’d really like to try out this machine, I really like the idea of using a lever machine too, and it’s not just open and close, you can move the lever to a middle point to pre infuse the grounds prior to pulling the shot, so it seems like a very good machine for the budding home Barista, and this is a machine that would appear to be able to handle just about any volume. I also like the fact that Bellabarista sell all of the replacement parts for this machine, and I can see they’re not expensive, new steam tips are 7 or 8 quid, element is  £30 or £40, steam gauge is £25.

There is a single boiler version of this machine available for a couple of hundred quid less, if you’re bot bothered about having dual boiler.

Dimensions: 26cm wide, 46cm deep, 43cm tall.

Weight: 20 Kilos.

PID?: Yes

What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel. Boilers are copper with brass ends.

Cup Clearance: 10 cm

Portafilter Size: 58mm

Price: £1532.00 RRP for the hand fed  version, £1599 RRP for plumbed in version. Best deal I can currently find is from Bean Heroes, £1149 / £1199. Also available from Bella Barista currently for £1185 / £1285, and from Machina Espresso for £1225 / £1285.

From here there’s quite a bit of a jump in price when it comes to the machines that I’ve got my eyes on, starting with:

 

Rocket R58 Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

Rocket R58 Espresso Machine.

 

I really like the look of the Rocket R58, they’re similar looking to the Expobar and other machines such as the Izzo Alex Duetto which I also like the look of,  but I like the fact that with the R58 the PID display is separate to the machine, rather than being fixed on the front. Having a digital display is great, but I think being able to hide it around the side rather than have it fixed on the face of such a good looking machine, is a far better idea.

While a lot of the features are similar to the lower cost Expobar, the R58 PID controller allows you to adjust temps for both boilers, meaning you can also change the steam pressure from the factory setting of 1bar, you can also turn off the steam boiler via the PID if you’re not using steam. 

While the Expobar leva is available with water tank or plumbed in, the Rocket R58 comes both in one, you can just set it to whatever you prefer, reservoir or mains water.

It has a rotary pump, E61 brew group, digital PIDs, 0.58L brew boiler, 1.7L steam boiler, 2.5L water tank (plus plumbing in kit).

The drip tray is smaller than the Expobar Leva, but if you’re plumbing it in, you’ll plumb in the drain to the waste water, so you won’t need to empty it.

It has a stainless steel cup surround at the top which is a plus if you use the cup warmer to store cups, if you have the clearance above it to use it as a cup holder of course. I do really fancy this machine, and although it’s an £1800 machine, it’s not the most expensive prosumer machine on the market. The only thing that does put me off slightly is the removable PID, although I suppose that’s a plus when it comes to replacing the PID if needs be, as it just plugs in.

Something I really like too is there are solid wood parts available for this machine, check them out:

 

Dimensions: 31cm wide, 44cm deep, 41cm tall.

Weight: 29 Kilos.

PID?: Yes. Not fixed to the front, though.

What’s it made of? Case is heavy gauge stainless steel. Boilers are copper.

Cup Clearance: 10 cm

Portafilter Size: 58mm

Price: £1800 RRP. Available from Bella Barista and Machina Espresso for £1699 currently. Sometimes on offer on Amazon, click here to see current offer (but just keep in mind most of the suppliers I’ve seen on Amazon selling this machine are in Germany, so double check the seller and check warranty and plug etc.,)

 

La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi II and Mini Vivaldi II

La Spaziale S1 Mini Vivaldi

La Spaziale make some serious commercial machines, and it’s fair to say I think that their prosumer machines shoehorn commercial quality into the scaled down single group prosumer machines. This is a great looking machine, available in white, red and black, it’s slightly wider than the rocket and the Expobar machines, but similar height and depth.

What always impresses me about these machines when I watch the videos is the speed of the milk texturing. I’ve never seen any other prosumer machine as fast as this when it comes to steaming, it seems to take around 10-15 seconds to steam for a single cup, which is crazy fast.

These are made as prosumer machines, but they are often used commercially, as they’re capable of decent volumes, but they’re relatively inexpensive in comparison to commercial machines.

The difference between the vivaldi and the mini vivaldi is that the mini has a vibration pump and is hand fed (whopping 3L tank though)  and the vivaldi is a rotary pump, and plumbed in. The Mini also has a smaller brew boiler, but apparently the steam power is just as good on both. The steam is lever activated on the mini, and knob activated on the regular vivaldi.

Dimensions: 41cm wide, 41cm deep, 38.5cm tall.

Weight: 28 Kilos.

PID?: Yes

What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel with coloured plastic side panels. Boilers are copper with brass ends.

Portafilter Size: 53mm

Price: The mini is available from Beanheroes for £1239, and the regular vivaldi for £1479. There aren’t many firms that publish their pricing online for La Spaziale machines, and I think this is just because most of the firms that supply these machines are wholesale suppliers.

 

La Spaziale S1 Dream T

La Spaziale S1 Dream Machine.

 

La Spaziale currently provide the espresso machines for the UK Barista championships, and the machine that is used, is the La Spaziale S40. This is their benchmark espresso machine, a commercial machine costing several thousand pounds.

The Dream is basically a scaled down prosumer version of this machine in terms of programability. While it’s scaled down in size, and number of groups, the rest of the functions and features are almost identical. The programability with this machine is amazing, as is the fact that you can save 4 different user settings, so if there is more than one person using the machine, you can select your own profile with your specific user settings.

For many home users this machine would be overkill in terms of the programming side of things, and if you strip away all of the programming functionality, unless I’m missing something it’s basically the S1 mini, but with a knob for steam instead of the lever? The programability does seem incredible though, so for someone who wants this kind of intelligence from their machine, this could be the perfect machine.

 

You can get the dream for a couple of grand, which isn’t cheap but it’s not the most expensive either, the very top of the prosumer range is probably about £5,000! In fact if you look at the new slayer single group machine which is aimed at the top end of the prosumer market, is just a tad under £8,000! Looks cool though, can’t have it, didn’t win Euromillions on Friday.

Dimensions: 41.5cm wide, 41.5cm deep, 38.5cm tall.

Weight: 28 Kilos.

PID?: Yes, haha, you could say that!

What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel with coloured plastic side panels. Boilers are copper with brass ends.

Portafilter Size: 53mm

Price: The dream is available from Beanheroes for £2040, Bellabarista have it for £1999 but they’re out of stock currently.

Lower cost espresso machines:

Before I talk about a few of the lower cost espresso machines that I think look interesting from the reviews, I just wanted to explain why I personally decided not to go for a budget machine.

When I started looking for an espresso machine, I didn’t really get the point of the much more expensive machines, I just thought that like with anything else, there’s always more expensive options. What I discovered though is that domestic machines are just completely different machines to commercial grade prosumer machines, and I decided that with a budget domestic machine, I was just going to end up being fustrated. This was especially the case after I’d been spoiled with the Sage Oracle in my kitchen for a week.

This isn’t to say that you won’t be happy with a lower cost espresso machine, you might be more than happy with it – you might not catch the home barista bug in the same way I have, in that I’m constantly wanting to improve the quality of my espresso shots, and my milk based drinks including latte art, it’s become a hobby with me, a hobby which includes drinking my favourite beverage :-).

Gaggia Classic

Gaggia Classic.

I bought my Gaggia Classic pre-2009 espresso machine (2003 to be exact) on eBay for £100, collected it locally. It was a brilliant buy, and I think its a mega machine for the price. They’re around about £250 new, and buying an older machine does come with risks, but I’ve been really happy with mine, with the modified steam wand.

The Amazon reviews for the newer models don’t paint the prettiest picture, but if you read all of the reviews as I have, the majority of them are from people who have owned an earlier version and are complaining that it’s not the same machine, it doesn’t have a solenoid valve and so on, and that it’s not built to last in the same way.

I think we just need to get over the fact that the old Classic isn’t available any more, and the current model is different. OK perhaps they should have given it a new name if they were going to completely overhaul the innards. Perhaps they shouldn’t have fixed what wasn’t broken – but they have, so all we can do is judge this machine based on it’s own merits and not that of a previous version.

To be fair to the new version, while I don’t think it has been made to last in the same way that my 2003 version was,  I think they’ve I think they’ve probably been made with performance in mind more than durability. They have a much larger boiler for instance, but it’s stainless steel rather than aluminium.

Keep in mind that the new classic will probably come with pressurised baskets, and you need to insert the little plastic / rubber gismo thing into the hole before use, I’ve read in the reviews that some people chuck this away when unpacking. What I would be inclined to do though is to throw the pressurised basket itself away, and buy the standard non pressurised basket. The pressured baskets are compatible with ese pods, and they make it easier to get results from shop bought pre-ground coffee, but if you’re going to be using a grinder and freshly roasted coffee beans, which you really should in my opinion, you can frisbee the pressured baskets.

Dimensions: 23cm wide, 24cm deep, 38cm tall.

Weight: 8 Kilos.

PID?: No

What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel, boiler is stainless steel too.

Portafilter Size: 58mm

Price: RRP £309.00 Available from Gaggia UK for £299, best deal I can find for it currently is Amazon for £249. If you do look on Amazon, keep in mind that you have various buying options, some of which are coming from outside of the UK, £249 is the cheapest I can find within the UK.  Click Here for the soonest ending auctions on eBay for Gaggia Classic.

 

De’Longhi EC.680.M

De Longhi EC680M.

 

The De’Longhi EC.680.M looks like potentially a good machine for the money. It’s nice looking, and is very slim and compact.  It has the sheathed pannarello wand that most / all of the lower cost espresso machines have. You can usually just take these off if you don’t want to use them.

The reviews on Amazon for this machine are really, really good, they seem too good to be true for a machine at this cost.

I saw one of these the other day in Tesco (every little helps) and I was amazed with the size of it, really small – I couldn’t believe I was looking at an espresso machine. This is a good thing of course if you want a basic machine and you’re struggling for kitchen worktop space.

Dimensions: 14.9cm wide, 33cm deep, 30.5cm tall.

Weight: 4 Kilos.

PID?: No

What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel, boiler is stainless steel too.

Portafilter Size: 51mm

Price: RRP £199 Available on Amazon from £144

 

Morphy Richards 172004 Accents

Morphy Richards 172004 Accents.

 

This is another low cost espresso machine that baffles me in terms of the quality of espresso users are saying they’re getting for such a price. This machine is available from just over £70 at the moment, and there are people saying that they make great espresso with it, and given that you probably couldn’t buy any part on one of the prosumer espresso machines I have mentioned in this post, it would just seem too good to be true.

 

Anyway, going back to this accents espresso machine, it’s a nice looking machine, and it has very good Amazon reviews. I would say that if it is even a quarter as good as the reviews would lead you to believe, then this is worth the price tag, especially while it’s available for such a small amount.

 

The steam wand is pannarello / turbo frother, and again you can probably remove it if you like, or just watch youtube vids on how to make decent microfoam using a pannarello steam wand.

 

Dimensions: 23cm wide, 19.6cm deep, 30.5cm tall.

Weight: 3.6 Kilos.

PID?: No

What’s it made of? Case is stainless steel and plastic. Not sure about the boiler, think it’s stainless steel.

Portafilter Size: 51mm

Price: RRP £149.99 Available on Amazon from £71.12!

 

Under £100

There are lots of espresso machines available on Amazon for a price tag of under £100, even under £50!

The De’Longhi EC146.B is available for just over £60, the Jack Stonehouse espresso machine is  £49.99, Vonshef stainless steam espresso machine is available from under £60, and the Andrew James machine seems to be a popular choice at just under £80. Quite frankly, for the price, if they make something passable as espresso, then I can’t see what anyone could possible complain at, at these kinds of prices.

I think you need to remember though that these really are cheap espresso machines, they’re made with much, much lower quality components than would be used in prosumer or commercial espresso machines, so you just can’t expect them to perform the same or last the same as you’d expect from a machine costing 10 times or 50 times the cost.

Another thing to remember is that the better coffee you put in, the better coffee you will get out, so rather than buying pre-ground coffee, buy freshly roasted coffee beans from a coffee roaster, grind your own so you can dial in the bean to get the best results (which means if the flow is too fast you grind finer, if it flows to slow you grind more course) and you’ll get much better coffee in the cup.

 

Another option at this kind of price point, is to do what I did before I had an espresso machine, use an Aeropress or a stove top, and if you want milk based coffees, warm your milk in a pan or in the microwave and then froth with a hand frother or in a cafetiere.

Another option for a machine under £100 is to get a Nespresso machine, refillable pods, and a hand grinder, so you can make your own espresso using freshly roasted freshly ground speciality coffee.

How best to use the online espresso machine reviews in 2017.

If you’re looking to buy an espresso machine in 2017 (I’m a poet, and I didn’t know it), you will undoubtedly be using the online reviews as one of the tools at your disposal to discover which might be the best espresso machine for your needs and your budget. If you’re not, then come on dude it’s 2017, get up to speed ;-)! If you are “down with the kids” and you’re all over this online thing (like George W Bush was when he declared that he had filters on internets, and he used “the google” to “pull up maps”, haha), then here are some tips for you for the best way to use the online reviews to your advantage without been lead astray.

Tip no1: Know what you’re looking for.

There will be certain things you want in an espresso machine, and certain things that you don’t. If you have these things in mind when you’re looking at the reviews, then you can use them as a powerful tool by scanning through the reviews to look for any clues that the machine you’re looking for ticks the right boxes.

For example, if it’s important to you that the machine is quiet, you’ll want to see comments from reviewers that it is a quiet machine, and you won’t want to see comments that it sounds like a jumbo jet and will wake the rest of the house up while you’re making yourself a coffee.

If it’s important that the machine heats up quick, then you’ll want to see reviews stating that this is the case, and can look out for any comments from users saying that it takes ages to reach brew temp. Knowing the things that you do want, and the things that you don’t want, means that you can purposely scan through the reviews rather than aimlessly trawling through them.

 

Tip no1: Ignore overall star rating, and look at individual reviews.

The star rating can be manipulated both by fake reviews, and by people reviewing who just don’t know how to use the ratings stars system, such as people who give one star feedback because of a delivery issue, which is absolutely nothing to do with the product. It’s far better to look at individual reviews both positive and negative, you can see which ones are honest reviews, which ones are fair reviews and actual product ratings rather than complaints about the supplier or courier, and you’ll get an idea about whether or not this espresso machine may be the one for you.

I ignore any really short reviews, and I tend to look for longer ones. I’m also particularly keen on reading reviews that are from people who have been using the machine for a while rather than people  reviewing after just having got it out of the box, for obvious reasons. When I’m reading the reviews, I apply my own mental filters to filter out any comments that I know are simply due to a mistake on the part of the user.

For instance if someone comments that the coffee doesn’t taste great, or that the espresso shot isn’t perfect, on the first use, then I determine that this user maybe doesn’t appreciate that they have bought a semi automatic espresso machine, and a learning curve is not optional, it will probably take quite some time for them to be getting great shots, especially if they haven’t used an espresso machine in the past. It could be that they really meant to buy a bean to cup machine and didn’t realise the difference, it happens.

There are so many other factors when it comes to the quality of the espresso shot, including the coffee being used, the grind setting and so on, that I wouldn’t personally bother looking at any reviews about the quality of the coffee the machine is capable of, unless I get the impression that the person writing the review has some experience when it comes to espresso and pulling espresso shots.

 

Tip no2: Look at the most recent reviews.

If you are looking at a product in amazon, scroll down the main product page, and look on the right hand side, and you will see the most recent reviews on the right hand side of the page. As it’s not possible any more in 2017 to leave fake reviews (customers now have to be a verified buyer in order to review, which wasn’t always the case, and there are other things in place now to stop the ratings system being abused), by reviewing just the recent ones, you are blocking out the potential fake ones.

It’s usually fairly easy to spot the fake reviews anyway, as they tend to read like sales blurb, often the English used isn’t great, and generally you can just tell they’re not legit, but if you read just the recent ones, it’s unlikely there will be any fakes, so you save some time.

 

Tip no3: Look at the answered questions.

Answered questions are in my opinion one of the best tools on Amazon. At the top of each product page you’ll see a link to answered questions, if you click that you will see any questions that potential customers have asked, and people who have already purchased and used that product have answered. This is a really good tool, and when there are specific things that you want to know about a machine that perhaps aren’t the kind of feature that will be listed by the manufacturer, there’s a good chance you’ll find someone else has asked the question. If they haven’t, and if you’re not in a rush, you can ask the question yourself.

 

Tip no4: Don’t expect a BMW 5 series for the price of a Ford Ka.

There’s nothing wrong with a Ford Ka if it fits your needs and your budget, but you’re not going to get a new Ford Ka for the price of a new BMW 5 series. If you’re looking for a cheap espresso machine, you’re not going to get the best espresso machine as cheapest and best never go hand in hand, so it’s better to decide what is the most important when it comes to features, and focus on looking for indications in the reviews that the machine you’re thinking of buying has these features, and doesn’t have the pitfalls you’d like to avoid.

A commercial espresso machine will cost you at least a couple of thousand pounds, and a commercial level consumer (aka prosumer) machine will cost usually from several hundred pounds and upwards. It’s not plausible to expect to get the same kind of build quality and the same quality espresso from a machine costing a fraction of the price.

 

Tip no5: Check the sellers too

Once you’ve decided on the espresso machine you’re going for, check out the supplier to make sure you’re getting it from the right place. If you’re buying from Amazon, you will sometimes find that you have more than one option for supplier, in which case you can look at the sellers feedback score and go for the best seller. Also, sometimes you’ll see that some of the sellers aren’t in the UK, in which case you might want to give them a miss, as delivery will take longer, and it may be harder to sort if you have a problem with your machine. If you’re buying from a retailer directly, then just google their business name along with the word “reviews” and you’ll see their google reviews if they have some, also see if they have a facebook page and check their reviews there if they do, and see if they have a page on trustpilot. There are some suppliers who appear to be in the UK, but you can see from the reviews that they’re actually in other Eu countries, which can cause several issues including in some cases that you may not have a valid warranty.

Life is like a box of chocolates, so follow me on twitter, and that’s all I have to say about that.

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