Pros: Cool theoretical features; looks great on your counter
Cons: Espresso? What espresso?
Rating: 1 out of 5
First posted 8/8/2001
The Features: It makes espresso. It makes crema coffee. It steams things. It froths milk. It dispenses hot water for tea or cocoa. Spiffy, huh?
It has a nice little dual-spout so that you can make two cups of espresso or coffee at the same time. You can easily raise or lower the spout so that it can accommodate cups of different sizes without spilling.
The water tank holds a fair amount of water, and is easily removable, complete with handle for easy carrying.
There’s a reservoir for used coffee grounds inside. You turn a part of the machine and it pushes the grounds off into this reservoir. From what I’ve heard bacteria can grow in here if you leave it for very long, so I recommend emptying it out once a day if you’re still stubborn enough to go buy this thing after my review is over.
Cleaning most of the machine is pretty easy – the overflow/drip tray underneath the cups comes out easily, with the used grounds reservoir attached. The water tank lifts off cleanly. You can lift the top carousel off by pressing the release switch, remove the coffee funnel, hold upside-down and just run under the water.
The instructions: If you get this machine, keep this one thing in mind: it isn’t as daunting as the instructions make it look. Just make sure you read the directions through once before doing anything with the machine. There are a couple of things you just never want to do, like turning the carousel on top clockwise, or trying to turn it without raising the lever, or trying to remove the carousel without having it in the right position.
Once you’ve learned these things however, it’s a pretty simple machine. Put your cups under the spouts. Squeeze the handle and raise the lever. Turn the carousel counter-clockwise until the coffee funnel is in front of you. Put no more than two scoops of espresso in (scoop provided). Turn a quarter-turn until the lever points directly forward. Lower the lever until you feel the resistance of the coffee grounds. Turn on the machine. Wait for the yellow thermostat light to go out. Make sure the selector switch is set to the pour spout. Press the pump switch and wait for your espresso to come out!
Hey, where’s my espresso?
[Fiddle with the pump switch. Raise and lower the spout a bit. Glare at the machine.]
Where’s my !$)!#&$! espresso???
[Turn off the pump button. Glare at the machine again. Turn the carousel to move the espresso grounds into the reservoir. New attempt: to move hot water through without coffee.]
Well that’s better. I can get hot water, at least. So why can’t I get espresso?
To backtrack a little…
On page 5 of the user’s manual you will find this statement:
8. WHICH COFFEE GRIND?
The Capresso Ultima works with a variety of grinds. It is much less sensitive to the coffee grind than most other pump espresso machines… If no or hardly any coffee comes out of the spout, then your coffee is ground too fine.
On page 10 of the user’s manual you will find this further bit of information:
16. WHAT IF
a. No water comes through the coffee spout
- Make sure the water tank is inserted properly and water is in the water tank.
- Make sure the lever points towards the front of the machine and is in the closed position.
- Make sure the selector switch points to the spout symbol.
- Coffee is ground too fine; use coarser ground coffee.
Well, hot water came out, so the tank isn’t the culprit.
I tried to make espresso several times, double-checking the lever position each time, so if that’s it then this machine is too darn hard to work.
The selector switch certainly was set to the spout symbol (again, hot water came out).
That leaves us with the grind of coffee. The grind, for which this machine is supposed to be far less finicky than other machines. Well if that’s the case, I’m just never going to bother buying another espresso machine as long as I live. I tried three different commercial grinds of espresso. Two of them specifically indicated that they were for use in espresso machines. I couldn’t get espresso out of a single one of them.
[More fiddling with the machine. Removal of the used grounds reservoir.]
Oops. I guess I did get espresso – in the used coffee grounds reservoir. Ick.
I also discovered that part of this machine is pretty difficult to clean. You remove all the removable bits and rinse them off – great. But when the carousel moves coffee grounds into the reservoir, it leaves bits of coffee grounds all around. They’re a royal pain to clean off, and they’ll tend to color your hot water slightly coffee-colored. Great.
Luckily for me I bought my machine from Cooking.com, and they have a 90-day unconditional money-back guarantee. I guess you know what I’m going to be taking to the post office tomorrow.
If you really want espresso, make it in a coffee pot or automatic drip coffee maker. You just don’t need one of these things. Heat your milk on the stove instead of steaming it. If you want a frother, buy something cheaper than an espresso/steamer/hot water/frothing machine. And whatever you do, don’t buy this machine. It looks really cool on your counter, but it’ll leave you cold.