Espresso

Capresso Cafe Manual Espresso Maker Review

Considering its cheap price, the Capresso Café's lackluster performance isn't surprising.

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Introduction

Priced at about $150, the Capresso Cafe is one of the cheapest dedicated espresso makers available. But you get what you pay for, with lackluster espresso performance- and poor milk foaming.

Design Overview

The Capresso Café looks, and is, plasticky, with the majority of the parts made of plastic. Even the drip plate is platic, with the cup warmer being the only external metal part.

Front

Front Photo

Sides

Sides Photo

Controls

Controls 1 Photo

Water Reservoir

Water Reservoir Photo

In the Box

As well as the machine itself, you get the portafilter, two filters (for single and double shots) and a combination scoop and tamper.

Performance Overview

The Capresso Café produced resonable espresso, but did a poor job of steaming and foaming milk.
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Espresso Speed

The was a rather slow machine to make espresso shots, as it seemed to take the boiler and pump a long time to start getting the water flowing. It took us 48 seconds to pull a single shot, and 56 seconds for a double. More on how we test the brewing process.

Espresso Quality

We found that the quality of the espresso produced by this machine was adequate, but far from great. The shots that we pulled with our reference test beans had good color and a reasonable amount of crema, but the crema was rather dark and variable from shot to shot.

We don't test the taste of the espresso produced, but we do look at the strength by measuring the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids). The higher this percentage is, the stronger the brew. We don't look for a specific percentage, but for the ability to create a range of strengths, so the user can get the espresso strength that they like. We found that this machine had good performance here, with the single shot having a TDS of 8%, and the larger double at 5.3%. Both of those are on the strong side, so this espresso maker may be better for those who like a strong shot, as they all seem to turn out on the strong side.. More on how we test the brewing process.

Espresso Shot Photo

A double shot brewed by the Capresso Cafe

Espresso Quantity

As a semi-manual espresso maker, the can produce any quantity of espresso from a small shot (we were able to pull shots of about three quarters of a fluid ounce) up to a double shot. The limiting factor is how much coffee you can get into the filter, which can hold enough for a good double shot. More on how we test the brewing process.

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Milk & Foam

The has a steam wand with an attached foam helper on the right side. This is rather oddly set at the back of the machine; you have to reach around the front to get to it. We found that this did a rather poor job of steaming the milk in our tests, taking rather longer than we like to heat the milk and producing foam with large bubbles that quickly broke down. The steam was also very variable, with the flow of steam often rising and falling as the boiler struggled to keep up. With some patience, it is possible to get decent foam, but the lack of any steam level control and a seemingly underpowered heating system made for poor performance.

We also noticed that the system had an annoying habit of letting off excess steam from a release valve in the front of the body when we turned it off. If you were reaching down to grab the cup from the drip tray at the wrong time, you could get a blast of steam on the hand. It didn't burn, but it certainly wasn't what we expected and was not pleasant.

Foam Photo

A latte macchiato brewed by the Capresso Cafe

Usability Overview

A rather baffling control system and poor design make this espresso maker difficult to use and clean.

Brewing Process

The is a rather annoying device to use, with a confusing control layout. One switch determines if it is in water or steam mode, while another dial controls if the steam wand or espresso maker are being used. If you have the swtich on water mode and turn it towards the steam wand setting, boiling water jets out of the steam wand. Turn it the other way, and the water goes into the espresso maker. With the button in steam mode, you get the choice of steam out of the steam wand, or steam out of the espresso maker.

If that sounds confusing, that is because it is.

Step 1
Brewing Process Step 1 Photo

To pull a shot with this espresso maker, you load the filter, tamp the grounds and replace the portafilter. You then start the flow of water with the controls.

Step 2

The machine then dispenses water until you turn the dial off.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Cleaning & Maintenance Photo

The requires some maintenance, with the water reservoir needing refilling every day or two, and the drip tray requiring emptying. The plastic cover for the drip tray also required cleaning often, as you can't clean up spills and drops by just wiping it off, as you can with most machines.

One step that also caused us some issues was cleaning out the filter after pulling a shot. The usual way to do this is to take the portafilter with the filter in it and bang it on the edge of a trash bin, with the effect that the puck of coffee grounds falls out into the trash. Instead, on this machine, the entire filter had an annoying habit of falling out, even with the retaining clip held in place. We then had to retrieve the filter from the trash.

Customization

There are no customization features on this machine: you can't change the temperature, water flow or steam level.

Comparison Overview

Neither of these machines inspired us, but if you are on a limited budget, we would recommend that you get the Capresso. It produces better espresso and does a better job of foaming milk. Alternatively, keep saving up until you can afford to buy a better espresso maker that will make a better brew and last longer.

Comparison Overview

With the , you have to grind, load and tamp your own beans, which can be time consuming and difficult. With the X7.1, you just pop a new iperEspresso capsule into the portafilter and you are ready to go. That's the main advantage of the illy over the Capresso, and a little convenience can go a long way. We also found that the illy produces better quality espresso and was more consistent, although it had disappointing performance in our milk tests. However, the Capresso does alow you to produce a wider range of sizes of brew, while the X7.1 has just one option for size.

Comparison Overview

The Capresso Cafe is by far the cheaper espresso maker: priced at about $150, it is less than a third of the price of the Rancilio. But that saving doesn’t count for much if the coffee it produces isn’t much good, and that, unfortunately, is the case with the Capresso. It just isn’t as good as the Rancilio, so if you can afford it, go for the more expensive machine.

Conclusion

The is underpowered, poorly designed and confusing to use. But it is not unusual in that: most cheap espresso makers have similar problems, as espresso is a difficult drink to make, and requires expensive engineering. This one did an adequate job of producing espresso, but steaming. the milk seemed to be more difficult for it, with the foam helper producing large bubbled foam that broke down quickly. Overall, this was a rather disappointing espresso maker, and most users would be better off saving up for a more expensive, but better performing machine.

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