While there are many “capsule” coffee solutions, such as Nespresso and Keurig, if you are serious about your coffee, you may want more flexibility and variety than the capsule machines can offer. For example, you may want to use your own coffee beans ground your own way, you may want to adjust the volume produced, and you may even want to add a dollop of frothed milk added on top. The Philips Saeco HD8924/47 PicoBaristo Automatic Milk Frother Espresso Machine gives you this flexibility and variety, all in one compact machine.
The footprint of the machine is rather compact, considering everything the machine can do: roughly 8.5″ x 16.75″ in width and depth, and about 13″ tall. However, raising the water tank lid or coffee hopper lid adds another 4.25″ to the height. Also, since the water tank is loaded from the top, you will need even more vertical space if you want to remove the water tank from the unit. The machine can detect when the coffee hopper lid is open or closed, though this mechanism has an unfortunate design flaw—there is a small hole in the bean hopper and a small plastic piece on the hopper lid that fits into the hole when the lid is closed. If a coffee bean falls into the hole, the plastic piece can break or the machine can stop working until you clear the bean.
The machine is black thermoplastic with stainless steel front and drip tray, and the unit has an overall attractive design. The LCD information display is bright and clear, and the interface and backlit buttons are easy to use.
The bean hopper allows you to add your own coffee beans and holds 250 grams. The ceramic grinders give a uniform texture to the grinds, which allows for the best coffee extraction and resulting taste. There is a grinder adjustment knob so you can customize the grind to your preference. In fact, on my machine the adjustment knob was set to the finest grind from the factory—I was in such a hurry to brew coffee that I didn’t think to adjust the grind first, and the resulting coffee was quite bitter. Though you should only adjust the knob one click at a time to prevent damage to the grinders, eventually you will be able to dial in great tasting coffee. You can also make coffee using your favorite pre-ground coffee instead by adding the grinds to a separate compartment just for this purpose.
The water tank lifts out of the machine with a convenient handle and holds 1.8 liters. The unit comes with an AquaClean water filter that fits inside the water tank, and the machine will notify you when you need to change to a new filter as well as when you need to descale the machine. One feature that sets this machine apart from other machines is that you can brew up to 5,000 cups of coffee before needing to descale the machine. The instruction manual includes instructions this, as well as other regular maintenance suggestions, such lubricating the system with grease.
The machine makes a variety of coffees: Espresso, Ristretto, Espresso Lungo, Caffe Crema, and Espresso Double, and also makes frothed milk as well as just dispensing hot water. The automatic milk frother attaches to the hot water spout and includes a hose that you put into the container containing the milk—the machine sucks up the milk through the hose, combines it with steam, and dispenses the resulting frothed milk. While the milk frother is easy to use, note that you must detach the milk frother from the water spout before removing the drip tray.
The machine allows you to customize the brew according to your specific taste—there are five coffee strength settings and you can also adjust the volume for each beverage type. For example, the standard espresso volume is 40 ml, but you can adjust the espresso volume between 20 ml and 230 ml. There are three different water temperature settings and the pump has 15 bars of pressure.
The coffee is dispensed through two nozzles inside an adjustable spout—you can raise or lower the spout depending on the size of your coffee cup. Brewing time varies depending on the settings chosen, but runs from about 45 seconds (for espresso) to 100 seconds (for a long coffee). Note that because there are two nozzles, you can brew two cups of coffee at the same time.
After each cup is brewed, the used grinds are compressed into a small puck and dumped into the coffee waste container, which is a removable container accessed by sliding out the drip tray. This waste container holds grinds for about 15 servings of coffee.
Overall, this compact, automatic espresso maker and milk frother makes excellent espresso AND cappuccino. I really like that the machine grinds coffee beans or allows you to use pre-ground coffee and offers grind, coffee strength, and beverage volume settings to I can adjust everything according to my taste and for the coffee beans I am using. Yes, you can always heat your milk in the microwave, but the automatic milk frother gives this machine the edge in terms of taste, texture, and convenience. And only having to descale the machine every 5,000 cups to me sets this unit apart. However, for the price, you really need to love great cappuccino.
I hope you found this review helpful!
Pricing and Availability on Amazon: Philips Saeco HD8924/47 PicoBaristo Automatic Milk Frother Espresso Machine (aff)