Saeco Aroma Espresso Machine Review

saeco-aroma-stainless-steel-espresso-machine

saeco-aroma-stainless-steel-espresso-machine

Introduction

If you prefer simplicity over complexity, solid performance over superfluous bells and whistles, the Saeco Aroma Espresso Machine would fit the bill perfectly. Being in the semi-automatic category, this machine is made of stainless steel, delivers Italian quality espresso and other coffee drinks with such ease.

As compact as it is, it’s packed with important features and anxillary perks that would have cost you hundreds of dollars more in another model. What exactly does this unit offer?

 Table of Contents
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1. Introduction
2. Features & Benefits
3. Brewing
4. Steaming
5. Display & Control
6. Additional Features
7. How to Clean
8. Accessories
9. Power & Cord
10. Dimensions & Weight
11. Warranty
12. Pros & Cons
13. Consumer Reviews
14. Price
15. Summary

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Features & Benefits

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  • 15-bar Pump: In a semi-automatic espresso machine, the pump pressure is a critical part in brewing great espresso as the machine applies the optimal pressure to extract the flavor, aroma and crema out of fresh coffee grounds. The required pressure is 9-bar minimal and this exceeds that requirement.
  • Stainless Steel Boiler: The boiler size is not huge by any measure but it’s made of stainless steel resistant to acidity and corrosion. Durability is a hallmark of stainless steel and it is definitely translated into the selling point of this machine.
  • 85 Oz. Water Tank: One of the sacrifices made in the design for a compact unit like this is the smaller water tank given the smaller footprint of the machine. The Saeco Aroma defies that logic by providing a “huge” water tank. That means you don’t have to worry about water running out before brewing. In fact, there is clear side view on the left to let you know the water level. Make a habit of checking it before each brew so you don’t ruin the pump by having no water in the tank.
  • Pressurized Portafilter: If you are a coffee geek, chances are you won’t be using the pressurized porafilter. But for the rest of the populace, such is an advantage as it’s more forgiving to the coffee ground size and tamping pressure.

    Brew will not start until pre-defined pressure is reached and the small spring-loaded valve in the portafilter opens up for the water to pass through. Think of the pressurized portafilter like a training wheel when learning to ride a bicycle. This provides a safety net in case you don’t do your part perfectly.

    Another added feature is that the one-cup portafilter is also designed for using E.S.E (Easy Serving Espresso) pods, pre-packaged coffee ground packets. For some people, this will be handy when you are pressed for time to get a cup of espresso but don’t want to mess with grinding, tamping and cleaning up.

  • Two Color Finishes: Black and stainless steel are the color options for housing finish. The price difference is about $15 more for the stainless steel vs. the black. Either one is neutral enough to match most of the kitchen décor.
  • Cup Warmer: On top of the machine, there is a cup warmer that holds about 4 cups before brewing. The warmer is heated by the passive heat from the boiler so it may take longer to heat up the cup. If you are impatient like me, you can always warm the cup in the microwave with some water or just release some hot water from the espresso machine. While this might be a minute detail, but it’s essential to a great shot as maintaining constant temperature from the brew group to the delivery.
  • Compact Size: This unit has a small footprint that’s 11.6” tall, 8.26” wide and 9.84” deep. You don’t have to dedicate a large counter space for it.
  • Pannarello Steam Wand: Making cappuccinos or lattes is a snap with this feature.

Brewing

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It can’t get easier than this when brewing a shot. Plug the machine into a power outlet and turn on the unit. It will take a minute and half to heat up at such time the brew button will be illuminated in red to signal readiness to brew.

Grind the coffee beans for one shot or more in a burr grinder to ensure the consistency of the grind size and great extraction. Fill the portafilter with the appropriate amount of coffee and tamp it with 40 to 50 pounds of pressure. The tamping pressure might be worth tinkering with to get to the optimal. Lock the portafilter into the brew head and place a pre-warmed cup under the dispenser. Press the Brew button until the right amount is released to the cup.

You can take shortcuts in using either preground coffee or E.S.E pods if you don’t have a burr grinder. Tamping is optional as well.

The litmus test is to monitor the flow, the color and the aroma. A great espresso should look like hazelnut in color and syrupy in texture and flow and with a 3 to 4mm crema on top. Of course, the ultimate test is taste. It should be full-bodied, aromatic, not too bitter or sour.

Steaming

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Steaming requires a higher temperature from brewing. Therefore this is a few seconds downtime in between. Fill the pitcher with fresh cold milk. Whole milk is best for creating creamy drinks, but 2% would do. Press the Steam button and wait for the red light to turn on. Insert the wand into the milk pitcher and turn the Steam knob counter clockwise.

The good thing with a pannarello wand is that you don’t have to constantly move the wand in the milk but letting it do all the work for you. You may gauge the readiness of the milk by the heat of the pitcher. If it’s hot to the touch, it’s ready. Or you can insert a liquid thermometer into the pitcher until the temperature reaches to 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

The biggest design flaw in this machine is the limited clearance between the tip of the steam wand and the counter top, about 2.75 inches. It’s a challenge to fit a pitcher of any size within the confines of the height. To remedy this issue, you can either elevate the machine onto a butcher block or position it in the far-right corner on your counter.

Display & Control

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The easy to use feature is apparent in the fewer buttons to push. On the left side of the panel, there is the Power On/Off button. In the front, Brew and Steam buttons are on the left and a knob for Steam/Hot Water on the right. The brew volume is controlled by pressing the Brew button manually as there is no automatic stop feature. Steam works similarly by turning the knob on or off. Hot water is for you to make Americanos or hot teas.

Additional Features

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None

How to Clean

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The most important daily routine is to discard the used coffee puck and rinse the portafilter with tap water. Cleaning the steam wand is very important to prevent milk clog up the hole. Remove the wand tip after each steaming and rinse it under running water and purge the entire system with hot water by pressing the Brew button.

Descaling is a periodic cleaning ritual to remove the build-up in the boiler and other parts of the machine. Follow the manufacturer instructions on what cleaning supply to use and how to perform the task. This will help you extend the life of the machine and enable it to serve you for many years.

Accessories

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Included Accessories

Included in the purchase are: Two portafilters for one and two cups, a coffee measuring scoop, a pod filter and adapter, and the User Manual.

Optional Accessories

I highly recommend you get a quality metal tamper of 53mm for under $10. It will serve you very well in the long run. If you don’t want to be bothered with grinding your own coffee, you can buy pre-ground coffee for espresso on Amazon or your favorite retail outlet. If you’d like to use pods, then get some.

Power & Cord

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  • Input Power (W): 950
  • Voltage/Frequency (V-Hz): 120/60

Dimensions & Weight

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  • Dimensions (W x D x H inches): 8.26 x 9.8 x 11.6
  • Weight (lbs): 13

Warranty

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 1-year limited warranty on parts and labor

Pros & Cons

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Pros

  • Small footprint makes it easy to fit into your counter space.
  • Delivers consistent quality espresso and milk-based drinks without much fuss.
  • Well-constructed with stainless steel exterior and boiler that will last for a long time.
  • Handsomely sized water tank saves you time for refill.
  • Pannarello steaming wand takes the guesswork out of frothing and steaming but enhances your enjoyment for cappuccinos or lattes.
  • Pressurized portafilters release the pressure on your part for perfect coffee grounds and tamping pressure.
  • User-friendly pushing buttons and knob turning make it a no-brainer.
  • Suitable for brewing with pods to save time and hassle.

Cons

  • The short clearance of the steaming wand makes it very awkward to fit a pitcher underneath.
  • The steaming wand creates larger microfoam due to injecting too much air bubbles into the milk. The Seattle Coffee Gear folks found a retro-fit solution to replace the Saeco Aroma pannarello wand tip with a Gaggia stainless steel one.

Consumer Reviews

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3.6 out of 5.0

62% of the Amazon reviewers reviewers gave it a thumb-up while the other 38% disagreed over one issue or another. The positive comments are the affordable price tag, compact size and the great drinks it produces. The biggest quibble is about the steaming wand and how awkward it is to use it without spilling milk.

Price

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Both the black and stainless steel model were just under $300 on Amazon. In the espresso maker market, the price range is considered “affordable” believe it or not.

Summary

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The Saeco Aroma is an excellent entry-level machine for average people who just want to brew their espressos or other coffee drinks without spending a fortune. While it offers some control over the types of coffee you use and the amount of froth/foam in your cappuccino, it also provides some shortcuts in terms of grinding and tamping or not.

It doesn’t have all the fancy nuanced features found in high-end machines. That’s precisely why you are not paying through the nose to get it. It would be a wonderful gift for a newly-wedded couple or a college student who are coffee lovers.

 

For current price information, click on the button below.

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