Maz July 30th, 2009
1. Sunbeam Artista EM5900 @ $499
The winner by a whisker. The Artista pre-infuses (allowing the “cake” to moisten and expand before extraction) and purges post-espression. “The thing that impressed us most is that it wouldn’t allow us to extract coffee if the machine was too hot — and that self-purging function,” says Mark Dundon (bean importer, roaster and international coffee judge). It made good shots consistently and produced good steam quickly, using a simple wand that assumed you didn’t need the help of an auto-frother … and, unlike the others in this test, the Arista allows manual adjustment of both water and steam temperature, should the pre-set levels be found wanting.
2. Breville 800ED @ $450
The all-metal shell suggests quality and for the price this machine performs extremely well. Like the Arista, the 800ES pre-infuses and purges — both valuable aids to the uninitiated. However we found it slightly less consistent over the course of four shots; we didn’t like the auto-frother (which is easily removed) and there is no manual override for water/steam temperature. “Still, I’d call this the quiet achiever,” says Dundon. “I’d be happy to have this in my home.”