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The Caterer

Head to head – coffee machines

14 December 2010
Head to head – coffee machines

We put two of the latest models through their paces.

DALLA CORTE EVOLUTION
Price £4,968 - £6,795 depending on model

WHAT IS IT?

The Evolution comes from Dalla Corte, a pioneer in espresso machine technology who claims to be the first to overcome the critical issue of group head temperature stability that is vital for consistency in coffee quality. Dalla Corte also claims to be the most accurate and precise espresso system in the world at sustaining this stability in commercial operations, and the first company to prove by external examination and testing that it saves energy for the operator in the region of 30-35%.


SPECIFICATIONS

Steam wands Two
Boiler 7- or 14-litre capacity with automatic boiler refill
Heat exchanger 1.5 litre
Groups available in 2-, 3- or 4-group

â- Independent control and on-off switching of individual group heads

â- Independent regulation of temperature at individual brewheads

â- Heat exchanger system at separate hot water tap (for tea, etc)

â- Independent and automated cleaning cycles for each brewing head


GOOD POINTS

Delivering perfect espressos is a lot harder than people think because there are so many factors involved in making a perfect extraction. The crucial one is the extraction "sweet spot" - in other words, making the extraction in the correct time with the precise temperature for the blend. If a blend is best extracted at 92.5°C and the machine is set for that, it will not make coffee at any other temperature, accurate to one-tenth of a degree.

The machine has been designed to work in partnership with a digital coffee grinder, the two machines being directly connected and communicating with each other. The result of this is that, the espresso machine measures the times of every extraction, and if the timing departs from the pre-set optimum (perhaps 22 seconds) then it will automatically adjust the grinder to compensate.


BAD POINTS

The machine is not cheap. The market expectation for a two-group espresso machine is around £3,000 - the Dalla Corte is twice that. On the Evolution Pro, adjustment of a wide variety of brewing parameters is possible, by one digital display control panel at the front of the machine however, there is a limit to just how much freedom of control a hospitality professional wants staff to have, so it takes a little wise training as to how much they can, and cannot, play with.


VERDICT

ANTHONY FLINN
chef proprietor, Anthony's Restaurant, Leeds says:

"It simply makes the best espressos and it does it time after time regardless of the barista skill level. I wish I had found it sooner for Anthony's. Temperature control when cooking in a commercial kitchen is essential and this is what surprised me most about espresso coffee - I never knew it made such a difference to the coffee's taste profile. Tasting is believing. When you have this much control over taste, then no other machine will do"


NUOVA SIMONELLI AURELIA
Price £4,600 - £5,600 depending on model


WHAT IS IT?

The Nuova Simonelli Aurelia is a heavy-duty espresso machine. This was the machine used in the finals of the World Barista Championship, for which it had to undergo probably the most demanding evaluation in the espresso world. It is the first espresso machine ever to achieve a certificate of ergonomics (by the European Institute of Ergonomics and Psychology).


SPECIFICATIONS

Steam wands Two
Boiler 14-, 17- or 22-litre
Heat exchanger 1.5-litre
Groups available in 2-, 3- or 4-group

â- Dual gauges - boiler pressure and pump pressure

â- Built in volumetric pump

â- Double flow control restrictions to regulate water circulation into group head

â- Multifunction two-line LCD Display in blue

â- Automatic back flushing

â- Programmable on/off controls and electronic control to monitor grind profile

â- Double soft pre-infusion to minimise risk of user error


GOOD POINTS

Probably the main reason it was chosen to be the world championship machine is because of the temperature stability at the brew head - modern baristas insist that an espresso machine delivers water at exactly the temperature they select, and stays there. The handles of the filter holders are inclined by 10 degrees, which offers a more comfortable hand position. A "soft- coupling system" allows operators to engage or remove the filter holder from the supply unit effortlessly. The touch controls have backlit buttons to make symbols easier to see, and it is possible to choose between various levels of light intensity. The work tray is entirely in stainless steel, with a wire grid: meaning the cups are not placed on a dirty surface from any previous servings. The steam control is a push-and-pull system, more comfortable than the traditional rotary control. The "cool touch" steam wands have a protective rubber guard to prevent burning and rotate 360 degrees enabling the use of various size pitchers.


BAD POINTS

The suggestion has been made that a set of scales should be built into the drainage tray. This is a long-held belief which has recently come back for discussion in the barista world - it is believed by many coffee experts that measuring an espresso shot by its resulting weight is a greater indication of successful extraction than measuring by liquid volume.


VERDICT

GWILYM DAVIES
World Barista Champion 2009 says:

"I want a working espresso machine, and I can not have one breaking down or bits falling off it. I like the Aurelia's milk steam lever - so simple and ergonomic - and I can change the brew temperature. But make sure you budget for training staff on how to use it best - a great oven does not make a great chef"

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