Friday, August 6, 2010
Hooray -- My Espresso Machine Died! Meet the Expobar Office Pulser I Just Ordered from Whole Latte Love
My newly deceased machine was the second of two Starbucks Barista machines, made by Saeco. The first one cost $300 and lasted three years after paying for itself about twenty times over ("That's $3.46. I'll see you at the window..."). The machine that just died was a newer model of the same machine that lasted about three and a half years and cost about 20% more than the first one, if memory serves me well. Yesterday morning the steam function just petered out in the midst of steaming my milk, kind of like the air being let out of a balloon, or a car running out of gas. Briefly, I toyed with the idea of going to the drive-through Starbucks (in my pajamas) and trying to purchase another espresso machine through the window, because then I would get a new machine instantly. Now is nicer than Later.
http://coffeegeek.com/ and decided that, next time I was in the market for a new machine, I would upgrade to a model with a heat exchanger that can steam milk and shoot espresso at the same time. The new machine will be a manual, like my old one -- no fancy electronic controls, this is a hands-on machine but easy to use once you get the hang of it. My Starbucks machines, like others in their price point, need time to cool off in between steaming the milk (which needs to be done first so the espresso shots don't get cold by the time the milk is ready) and pulling the espresso shots. That means that it can take 15-20 minutes to make a single latte, and 30-40 minutes to make two lattes. I would have to heat the machine to steam milk, steam a pitcher of milk for one latte, then wait for the machine to cool down, then pull the shots for the first drink, then heat it up to steam milk for the second drink, cool it down again for shots... The steam wand on the Barista machine also wasn't long enough to work with a larger milk pitcher to steam milk for more than one drink at a time, unless you're drinking cute little baby lattes and restaurant-sized cappuccinos. We supersize our coffee at my house -- I'm told it's a Lutheran Thing. All of this adds up to a selfish Rebecca drinking lattes in front of other people and not offering to share (see photo above of me not sharing my latte in 2008 -- and no, that's not my natural haircolor, either), so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to make multiple drinks at once and rejoin the ranks of polite society. My mother and husband should both appreciate that!
How to Buy an Espresso Machine. The machine I selected is the Expobar Office Pulser, a Spanish machine that gets great reviews from every site I visited and seems to be the best balance between price tag and performance. It is annoying, however, to see that the price on this model has gone up several hundred dollars over the last couple of years. This is probably the inevitable result of so many elated coffee lovers blabbing all over the internet that the machine is worth twice what they paid -- of course the manufacturer is going to raise the price! Where are Bill and Ted with their excellent phonebooth when I want to go back to 2003 to buy an espresso machine?
Overnight shipping would have been insanely expensive, and the machine cost enough on its own so I went with ground shipping. I ordered my machine from Whole Latte Love, exlusive U.S. distributors for Expobar. Their site contains a wealth of useful information on all things related to coffee, and they have a 30-day return period in case I turn out to be the first coffee lover who doesn't love this machine. I'll let you know when it shows up, and if all goes well, maybe next time you come to my house I'll make you a latte!