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With espresso machines topping the most wanted list of many consumers, it was about time for Consumer Reports to take a close look at some of the new espresso makers designed for the typical home kitchen. Since 1936, Consumer Reports has been testing products and publishing their ratings of those products every month. Over the years, the organization has become one of the most respected rating organizations in the country. The January 2009 issue of Consumer Reports took on Coffee Makers, and the ratings include 7 espresso machines ranging in price from $230 to $1000.
Consumer Reports Espresso machine testing criteria
The testing criteria for espresso machines differed from the criteria used for automatic drip coffee makers and pod coffee makers, which were also tested for the January 2009 issue. It included:
Taste as judged by sensory experts
Convenience of use including setup, noise, vibration, stability and ease of setting up the next shot, as well as ease of cleaning
Frothing ability was judged on the quality of the foam in firmness, fineness of the pores and stability
The machines were not judged on their ability to maintain a consistent temperature or on the amount of time it takes to extract a single shot of espresso, both of those important criteria to real coffee connoisseurs.
Espresso Machines Rated by Consumer Reports
The 7 machines tested by Consumer Reports included two by Nespresso – the Nespresso Essenza and the Nespresso Le Cube, two by Krups – the Krups 7230 and the Krups 4050 – and one each from DeLonghi, Starbucks and Saeco. All but two of the machines retail for $400 or less. The Krups 7230 retails for $1000, and the Saeco Incanto Rondo retails for $900. As a sidenote, both of the more expensive machines include integral coffee grinders, the only ones on the list that do, and the two Nespresso machines use Nespresso capsules.
The Consumer Reports Espresso Machine Ratings
The Nespresso Essenza Flowstop machine was rated tops in the espresso machine category. It scored an impressive 81 points out of 100, with the taste of the espresso rated excellent and ease of use rated very good. At $230, it was also the cheapest espresso machine rated in the Consumer Reports survey.
Not too surprisingly, the other Nespresso came in a close second, with 76 points out of 100. The coffee flavor and the convenience were also rated excellent and very good, but the price is a bit higher at $300.
The Krups XP7230 was the priciest espresso machine in the survey, with a rating of 72 out of 100. The espresso flavor and convenience were both rated very good, with the frothing rated excellent. At $1000, the Krups espresso machine is solidly in the mid-range for home espresso machines, and it does include a built-in coffee grinder. The XP7230 also makes two cups of espresso simultaneously, and the setup for the second set of shots is quick and relatively easy.
The Saeco Incanto Rondo, routinely rated high on most coffee sites, came in fourth, largely a result of its poor frothing ability. At $900, it features a built in grinder and steam wand, makes two cups of espresso at a time and has 7 grinder settings to customize your brew.
The Starbucks Barista, made by Estro, rated only 67 of 100 points, but flavor and frothing ability were judged to be very good and excellent. The Starbucks espresso machine loses out on convenience – but don’t hold that against it. It’s consistently rated with very high marks on consumer review sites, with comments about how easy it is to use and how good the espresso is.
The Delonghi EC 710 rated in next to last place with only 66 of 100 points. The espresso flavor was its saving grace – rated very good – but it scored only a good in both convenience and frothing. Again, the Delonghi typically rates fairly high on coffee-focused consumer review sites, so make your judgments accordingly.
The second Krups in the rating list was rated at the bottom of the stack with only 64 of 100 points. The Krups 4050 was judged very good in flavor and excellent in frothing, but low in convenience of use. If you value convenience – drop in a pod and brew your espresso – the Krups 4050 is probably not the machine for you.
None of the 7 espresso machines ended up on the Consumer Reports Recommended Buy list for the coffee maker report, but they were up against a field of over 30 automatic drip coffee makers and 7 single serve coffee makers, which may have influenced the judges’ ratings to some extent. While the ratings may be a bit off, the rating list is a good place for a novice to start assembling a list of possible espresso machines for the home kitchen.