September 24, 2006

Review: Jura Capresso Impressa E8 Review


The Jura Capresso E8 Super Automatic Espresso Machine is one of those dream come true espresso makers that captivates its audience and delivers on the promise of great espresso. The machine's complex design makes for an eventual simplistic usage - Press a button, stand back and watch. I did this time and time again with my charge of espresso coffee and still it didn't get old. The espresso was great and the machine was a die-hard that delivered consistently good coffee day in and day out. I credit the machine for that, but I also credit the coffee. For this review I used Gimme! Coffee's "Leftist" which was so fresh when I got it in Ithaca, we were able to watch it mature over the first week of this review period.

Starting Out

The Impressa E8 is a super automatic espresso maker that has loads of features. When you first open the Impressa E8, you get a machine that has many capabilities. It has so many potential combinations, that it is a little intimidating. For me it took a while to learn what the right settings were to get the perfect drinks coming out of the machine. It’s really all about learning what the machine can do and how to use it. A quick look at the features will allow you to understand the potential combinations. The Impressa E8 has 6 grind settings, adjustable water settings that deliver from 1 ounce to 16 ounces (good for two 8 ounce pours) of water to the cup, and when grinding from the whole bean bin, you can select 3 dose amounts: “Mild”, “Normal”, and “Strong”. There is also a by-pass doser that allows you to add your own ground coffee (up to 2 scoops) to the unit and skip the whole bean grind. This is a convenient way to make a decaf and still keep your normal beans in the hopper.

The Espresso
I was striving for three drinks, the ideal espresso and a passable latte that others can enjoy made from the same coffee. Finally, I was also trying to make the Latte from ground decaf coffee. The espresso was the easy part - add the beans to the hopper that holds around a quarter pound of coffee. My espresso cup was only 2 ounces, so I knew that I could only go up to that amount. So, I was left with 3 dose levels: Mild, Normal and Strong, and 1, 1.5 or 2.0 ounces of water. Net: Normal to Strong, at 2.0 ounces of water; perfect. Beautiful espresso, with sweet, textured crèma, and a delicious drink all the way through. The machine starts with a pre-brew dose of water, just a few milliliters to wet the coffee and improve extraction. When the espresso pours, it has tiny air bubbles all the way through like a Guinness Beer when it is properly poured; called the Guinness effect for good reason. As the espresso clears, a beautiful layer of crèma is formed. You can watch this over and over again and still love it. I have had dozens of these and each one was excellent. When it’s done with the brew, it kicks the spent coffee grounds into a bin that is hidden behind the coffee spout. The termperature into a heated Bodum Pavina Double-Wall Espresso/Shot Glass was consistently between 172F and 175F.

The Latte
I got the espresso from the whole bean component down, and then had to nail the frothed milk. Again, this is not hard. The Impressa E8 has a pretty good heater that needs to take about 30 seconds to raise the temperature to frothing temps to steam the milk. To do this, you press the "steam" button; the Impressa E8 then heats up, and tells you when it is ready to steam. You then insert the wand in the milk, then open the steam tap and let it rip. The steam goes for a preset number of seconds, adjustable by you. I found that I was able to set the time once and not adjust it after that; for me and the amount of milk I frothed, I needed 50 seconds of steam time.

The By Pass Doser
The Decaf Latte using the bypass doser was a little harder as I was using a coffee with a slightly different roast profile. The real issue was me remembering the sequence of buttons to press. Once you add the ground coffee to the by pass doser(flip up door on the top of the machine), you hit the “By Pass Doser” button to make your espresso. I will admit a couple of times I added ground espresso to the by pass doser and proceeded to hit the wrong button, making coffee from the whole bean bin.

Net, you’ll need to experiment a bit. Trust me this is not as painful as high school chemistry. The beautiful thing is you can drink the results and they taste great.

Once I got the mix right, I took the Impressa E8 on the road. We took the machine to a friend's house for a big weekend of espresso-freak experience. Everyone's eyes popped out when we started turning out drinks. Before long, we were turning out a half a dozen lattes after every dinner and maybe 10 espressos in the morning. We roared through the Gimme Coffee Leftist whole bean, and the Impressa E8 never quit. It performed impressively and never missed a beat.

I posted a separate review of the Gimme! Coffee Leftist whole bean coffee, but let me say briefly that the coffee is excellent. If you are in New York City, seek them out, or if you are in Ithaca, NY; you MUST go there. They do espresso right; you can also order coffee over the web from them.

More on the Jura Capresso Impressa E8 Features

The Impressa E8 has a lot going for it. The left side of this sleek machine hides a 64-ounce water reservoir and the water filter attachment, while the right side houses the whole bean hopper, complete with grinder setting dial. In the back center of the machine, there is a discreet trap door that is the by pass doser, ready for your ground espresso. In front there is a passive cup warmer, but I never really relied on this to warm the cups. If I wanted to warm the cups, I would add in a bit of hot water from the steam wand, swirl it and dump. I often didn’t wait around for the cup warmer to heat up.

On the front left of the machine is a smart looking command center for this machine. Set at the top of the buttons is the LED panel that tells you exactly what to do or what is going on with the machine. JuraCapressoE8Controls.jpgOn the left column you have the power button, the one-cup, two-cup brewing buttons and the selector knob that allows you to select how much water is used to brew your espresso. When you brew, you can press the 1-cup knob once for mild coffee, twice for normal strength, and three times for a strong cup. The water volume knob can be adjusted from 1 ounce to 8 ounces when used with the one-cup button, or up to 16 ounces with the two-cup button. In the end I didn’t use the two-cup button a lot; it’s just easier and more precise to brew twice into two different cups, two different times. The Impressa E8 has a zero recovery time, so serving up 2 espressos from two brews just takes about a minute.

On the right side of the command center, there are buttons to perform a rinse and to control the hot water and steaming functions, the brew from the by-pass doser button and the “P” – for programming button.
This “P” button gives you access to some core feature settings that are easy to set and forget.

You can set:

  • Water Filter – yes/no
  • Automatic Shut-off time – between 30 minutes and 9 hours
  • Water Hardness set-up – 4 levels
  • Aroma Level – Std/ Robust, which effects the amount of coffee ground.
  • Stats – number of cups brewed.
  • ml/ounce setting
  • Auto-Rinse at shutdown
  • Language – English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese

    In the center, you have an adjustable spout that slides down to the height of a demi-tasse cup, and slides up to accommodate a typical 10 ounce coffee mug. The right side of the machine has a steaming knob and the wand. When the machine is fully heated, you can always draw hot water to heat cups or make tea from the wand by rotating the knob to the “open” position. If you want steam, push the steam button, and wait about 30 seconds to get to temperature. You are then instructed to open the tap and steam your milk. There is a setting for how long the tap should stay active, by using the control dial on the left side of the machine (3 – 120 seconds). The machine remembers the last time setting that makes it easy the next time you froth. The wand has a sliding sleeve that allows you to simply steam or to froth the milk by drawing in air into the wand. This was fairly easy to use and the heat time was not bad at all.

    The machine tells you when you need to perform some clean up. It will tell you to add water, add coffee beans, empty the spend grounds bin, and when you do slide the grounds bin out, it will let you know that the drawer needs to be replaced before it can brew – smart little contraption. One thing it does not do it tell you to empty the drip tray. I had a couple of these get pretty full, and it’s not a lot of fun to empty these things, so I would recommend getting into a habit of dumping before the grounds bin is full; for me I do it every couple of days in a 2-person household. The machine does go through several rinses a day when it puts < 1 ounce of water into the drip tray per rinse. At each start up it requires a rinse to eliminate the cold water in the brew group as well as get any gunk out of the way of your espresso. I also had the machine rinse on shut down to keep things running well.

    Review Summary for the Jura Capresso Impressa E8

    The Impressa E8 is a great machine. The ease of use and the consistently great espressos are such an enticement I can hardly think of brewing espressos any other way. After learning about how the machine works, and a little experimentation, I learned exactly what I wanted, and what others might enjoy. I was able to turn out dozens of espressos and lattes that my friends, guests and I enjoyed. The flexibility of a by pass doser adds a lot of value to the machine and allows a good measure of flexibility to be able to share the great results with friends.

    At Capresso and Impressa E8

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    Posted by Scott Martin at September 24, 2006 10:30 PM
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