While we are visiting my folks in Oregon, I’m using a new espresso machine and grinder. I am somewhat serious about brewing espresso, but packing up my equipment and taking it with us on the plane is kinda out of the question. As is buying the same equipment again (the total is over $1000), so I did a little research and found two machines that were reasonably affordable. Those are the Rancilio Rocky doser-less grinder and the new Saeco Aroma espresso machine, which replaced the Classico, it seems.

My first attempt at brewing a cup did not go as expected. The machine had trouble extracting anything. I decided it must have been that I packed a little too hard using the plastic spoon (I wanted to follow the directions the first time, before trying the “real” tamper). The second attempt went just as poorly, after nearly a minute, hardly any coffee had come through the portafilter. At this point I was thinking the machine was no good, but then it occurred to me that I ought to try a different grind setting. At home I’ve got the Mazzer Mini, which unless you’re really serious, does not need much adjustment. In fact, I admit that I have never adjusted the grind in the year that I’ve owned my Mini. So after moving the Rocky from its setting of 10 to 20, the brew was as close to perfect as I have ever gotten. There was plentiful crema, far more than I’ve ever achieved with my Mini/Silvia combo at home, and the taste was fabulous.

As for steaming milk, the Aroma does alright, assuming you take that useless “frother” abomination off the steam wand and throw it away. All that thing does is blow huge bubbles into your milk, which is exactly what you do not want. The wand by itself is fine, though I’d rather froth with the Silvia.

My conclusion is, the machine may cost less, but that doesn’t mean it produces a poor cup of espresso. Of course it does mean that the machine is cheaply made. The Aroma pales in comparison to the Rancilio Silvia, which is a beautiful work of art compared to the barely usable Aroma. The other lesson I’ve learned is that I need to toy around with the grind setting on the Mini. I see now that I can do better, even when using the very same beans. It’s just a matter of fine tuning, I hope.

P.S. For a proper review of any of these machines, check out CoffeeGeek—I am just making an (opinionated) observation, not really reviewing these machines.

P.P.S. And by the way, do not bother trying to find the tamper size for the Saeco Aroma—it doesn’t seem like you would want to use a tamper anyway. All I did was grind, dose, and level the grinds, no tamping at all. But, if you really must buy one, the 52mm tamper has a bit too much room inside the Saeco Aroma’s filter basket, so probably a 53mm would have been a better fit.