Review: Hamilton Beach
This is the Hamilton Beach home espresso machine. I bought it for $69.00 American. You always hear in the coffee geeking community that you can not get away with making anything close to “real” espresso for under the $500.00 you will have to pay for the Rancillio Silvia. This machine boasts a “15 bar Italian pump”, so I figured I would give it whirl.
As I am writing this review, which I had planed to be favorable, I discover the thing has been recalled for blowing up on unsuspecting consumers. Don’t try to steam milk and pull a shot at the same time, or the steam tube might blow up, causing minor burns in 10% of the complainants. I hope they were all wearing glasses at the time. Let me tell you, this machine can not even steam 3-4 oz of milk up to temperature before it gives out, and that is without the extra resources required to pull a shot at the same time. You would really have to be in the dark about what you were doing to set up the recall conditions. Let’s not even get into the fact that in the steam cycle, the water that comes out at the group head comes in puffs of vapor mixed with spitting droplets of boiling hot water. You have to do some Olympic style surfing to get this bad boy to hit right on a temperature that is satisfactory. This is complicated by the fact that the tank on it is so small that a quick flush of the group head will cause a serious drop in temperature. But juxtaposed with the blistering temp at steam cycle, you have a good opportunity to hop on the elevator at the right floor.
The 15 bar pump is one of those vibe things that reminds me of the “magic fingers” mattresses at humpback motels. If you can rein in all the variable factors (no small feat) and hit it at optimal temp, grind, and tamp, you can actually get a “Bouya!” out of this black box (I swear I have never used that expression before).
This is a shot of Counter Culture’s Aficionado, the underdog of their line-up, which is constantly discounted by many in the shadow of it’s brother, Tuscano. This is what we use day in and day out at the shop, and it stands out well in a commercial environment with it’s ability to be bold and extroverted even in milky lattes. On this little home machine I have been drawing shots at a lower temperature than the shop machine, and this has made it extremely buttery with great body, clear acidity without sourness, with a warm molasses sweetness. There is not PID on the machine at the shop, and I am now wishing that I could lower the temperature on it to get this same slippery mouthfeel I have achieved at home on a $70 fear factor insurance risk.
If you have one of these, do like I do when my wife asks for a latte and warm up 6-8 oz of milk on the stove, and froth up 2 oz on the pathetic steam wand (after removing the plastic froth aid slip-cover). Just don’t try to pull and steam at the same time, you may be taking your live in your hands. Oh, you also have to leave the portafilter in the group head for a couple minutes before removing it to let the pressure drop because there is no 3-way valve. If you act with haste, you will have twice as much clean up to do as the contents 0f the basket will blow out on the machine, the counter, your shirt, and whatever cats and toddlers happen to be walking past at the time. So when I say that my review was meant to be “favorable”, what I mean is that it works very well for the money you will put out. With a little ingenuity and mad skills, you can get a great shot from the Hamilton Beach, just don’t try to get cute with it.