Brewing with the Saeco Aroma

While we are visiting my folks in Oregon, I’m using a new espresso machine and grinder. I am somewhat serious about brewing espresso, but packing up my equipment and taking it with us on the plane is kinda out of the question. As is buying the same equipment again (the total is over $1000), so I did a little research and found two machines that were reasonably affordable. Those are the Rancilio Rocky doser-less grinder and the new Saeco Aroma espresso machine, which replaced the Classico, it seems.

My first attempt at brewing a cup did not go as expected. The machine had trouble extracting anything. I decided it must have been that I packed a little too hard using the plastic spoon (I wanted to follow the directions the first time, before trying the “real” tamper). The second attempt went just as poorly, after nearly a minute, hardly any coffee had come through the portafilter. At this point I was thinking the machine was no good, but then it occurred to me that I ought to try a different grind setting. At home I’ve got the Mazzer Mini, which unless you’re really serious, does not need much adjustment. In fact, I admit that I have never adjusted the grind in the year that I’ve owned my Mini. So after moving the Rocky from its setting of 10 to 20, the brew was as close to perfect as I have ever gotten. There was plentiful crema, far more than I’ve ever achieved with my Mini/Silvia combo at home, and the taste was fabulous.

As for steaming milk, the Aroma does alright, assuming you take that useless “frother” abomination off the steam wand and throw it away. All that thing does is blow huge bubbles into your milk, which is exactly what you do not want. The wand by itself is fine, though I’d rather froth with the Silvia.

My conclusion is, the machine may cost less, but that doesn’t mean it produces a poor cup of espresso. Of course it does mean that the machine is cheaply made. The Aroma pales in comparison to the Rancilio Silvia, which is a beautiful work of art compared to the barely usable Aroma. The other lesson I’ve learned is that I need to toy around with the grind setting on the Mini. I see now that I can do better, even when using the very same beans. It’s just a matter of fine tuning, I hope.

P.S. For a proper review of any of these machines, check out CoffeeGeek—I am just making an (opinionated) observation, not really reviewing these machines.

P.P.S. And by the way, do not bother trying to find the tamper size for the Saeco Aroma—it doesn’t seem like you would want to use a tamper anyway. All I did was grind, dose, and level the grinds, no tamping at all. But, if you really must buy one, the 52mm tamper has a bit too much room inside the Saeco Aroma’s filter basket, so probably a 53mm would have been a better fit.

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9 Responses to Brewing with the Saeco Aroma

  1. CheesyCheesebourne says:

    “Barely Useable”? I think that’s being a little harsh. I found the construction to be solid compared to others in it’s price range. Comparing it to a machine nearly twice the cost is apples and oranges.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Nathan!

    I own a Saeco Aroma and I’m planning on buying a Rancilio Rocky (doserless model).

    Since you have some experience with those two machines together, can you tell me if the doserless Rancilio Rocky has enough clearance for the Aroma’s portafilter?

    Thanks!

  3. Nathan Fiedler says:

    @Cheesy: Yes, the Aroma is barely usable. Suffering with that thing is like torture. I’d rather be water boarded by the CIA.

    @anonymous: Yes, the Rocky has enough clearance for the Aroma portafilter, but I remove the supposedly helpful retaining fork, which just gets in the way.

  4. Anonymous says:

    barely usably if you are an idiot

  5. Nathan Fiedler says:

    @Anonymous #2: Thank you for your astute observation. You are living proof that coffee is like religion. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone that disagrees is wrong and obviously an idiot.

  6. Aniello says:

    I have been using the Saeco aroma for over 7 years. Almost everyday. It does take almost a year to master a semi-auto, I’m not surprised you had a hard time in the beginning. You know, I think it’s probably the most reliable and dependable machine out there. It can be serviced almost anywhere, since all the parts are very common. However, I never had to have mine serviced. Although it is leaking a little out of the steamer. I did get rid of the foamer and got a great quality pre-ground coffee that’s perfect for the unit (Barbera from Sicilly). I only wish it could warm up milk faster. My latte take too long now that I have three kids and a wife who want one.

  7. Turner says:

    The machine can be modified for more advanced operation. You can remove the three screws on the bottom of the portafilter, take out the spring loaded plastic bits and the plastic ring with the washer on it. You can also upgrade the steam wand to one that doesn’t allow too much air in. http://www.seattlecoffeegear.com/Seattle-Coffee-Gear-Panarello-Replacement-Wand-p/scgp227431321.htm

    This machine is not a joke, It’s designed for just about anyone, but it can be changed/modified for advanced techniques.

    As far as build quality goes, I haven’t had a failure yet. It is a great starter machine that works very well and it can be changed up to allow the user to take it to the next level.

  8. beatle says:

    My name is Nathan Fiedler, and I’m a knowledgeless opinionated dork.

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