Review: CBTL Americano Espresso Maker
The CBTL Americano offers another option for single serve espresso and coffee on a standardized platform that has jumped the ocean from Europe. based on the CaffeItaly platform, this capsule-based machine is a different standardization from other makers, but rests squarely on a firm infrastructure, offered in the US by CBTL.com They sent me this machine right around the holidays, and I have been using it ever since.
The machine line-up is concentrated in a more affordable price range of $139 - $179, as compared to other capsule-based systems. The CBTL Americano offers more brew sizes and a slightly larger footprint on your counter space versus the other models. With a 15-bar pump, and a single and lung setting, the machine is more of an espresso model versus a single serve coffee brewer, but they seem to have a trick up their sleeve in the making of the capsules to that they can create both well enough - more later.
The Americano is available at Bed Bath and Beyond as well as online at CBTL.com and Bed Bath and Beyond. CBTL offers a nice range of four espressos, a small handful of regular coffees, and some tea capsules. They also offer a few select decaf varieties in the mix. Cost is about $0.65 - $0.70 each with is roughly on par with other capsule based systems like Nespresso.
Read on for details on the machine, directed capsules and the espressos after the jump……
CBTL Americano Machine
The CBTL is a little deeper than a Keurig B-70, and larger overall than a typical drip brewer. It's deeper (13.5-inches) than it is wide (7-inches), letting you shoe horn it into a narrow space on the countertop- it's about a foot tall (11.5-inches). The Americano is available in red, black and silver, which should accommodate just about anyone's tastes. The materials are plastic in general, which should not be a surprise in a sub-$150 capsule-based machine.
The 51-ounce reservoir allows you to brew for several days without filling it. If you are brewing more coffee than espresso shots, you'll need to re-fill more often, but I found it big enough to handle both fairly well without needing to refill too often.
The on/off switch is side mounted, and does not have a sufficient standby mode - it goes into standby mode after 4 hours, I'd prefer something shorter. (Corrected - thanks Bob).
Brewing with the CBTL Americano
Most mornings I have been brewing up espressos, making a quick shot before taking off from work. I liked the fast warm-up and fast brewing of the espressos. Warm-up is reasonably fast, and fits well in the morning breakfast routine. An espresso brews in about 15-20 seconds, but a regular coffee takes a good bit longer - around a minute+. The Americano can brew a short and long espresso, as well as an 8, 10 and 12-ounce coffee, and a 9-ounce "Iced coffee" setting.
The capsules load easily in a slot at the top with the lift of the silver handle. i had no issues with capsules getting stuck, but the mechanism is a little sticky and less fluid than I would have liked. When the lever is lifted and the new capsule added, the old capsules drop down into a bin that holds about 10 spent capsules. The drip tray can be moved to accommodate an espresso glass up to a travel mug. To adjust, you can rotate the drip tray and pull it out of the slot, place it in a different one and twist to lock it. The drip tray holds a reasonable amount of liquid, so it can be emptied infrequently.
The CafeItaly Capsules
Like other single serve coffee systems, the capsules are at the heart of the overall platform. If you buy into the CBTL Americano machine, you are sitting firmly on a broad-based system that is Italian based, and distributed in the US by CBTL. The Cafeitaly capsules are plastic, with a couple of plastic disks inside to not only hold the coffee or tea leaves, but also disperse the water as it gets pumped through at up to 15-bars. All coffee, espresso and tea capsules have a disk on the top of the coffee and the bottom of the coffee to disperse the water and make it flow properly throughout the cake.
An interesting difference between the espresso capsules and the coffee/tea capsules is the fact that the non-espresso versions have the "bottom" of the capsule covered with a thin adhesive metallic disc versus plain plastic for the espresso. My guess is that the difference allows the machine to develop higher pressures required to brew a good espresso.
Regular Coffee on the left; Espresso on the right
I typically brewed on the short, espresso setting, putting about two ounces through the capsule making a solid tasting espresso shot. The espresso capsules tend to be darker and stronger than I think many will be used to, so make sure you try all of the capsules in the sampler before grabbing a huge supply of just one variety.
- Italian Espresso - This is a dark, smoky roast that has a slightly chocolate finish. It certainly tastes like a "traditional" espresso.
- Premium Espresso - Again, a strong and slightly less dark espresso, was roasted with a lighter touch, giving you hints of caramelized sweetness, with some lingering bitterness in the finish
- Continental Espresso - A smoother bodied espresso with a lighter roast, and less smoky flavor
- Decaf Premium - as usual, the decaffeination process whacks the coffee a bit, but this time taking away some of the bitterness to leave a strong upfront flavor with a cleaner finish.
Overall, the espressos are a good line-up, and I enjoyed both the premium and the continental the most - I tend to like sweeter and more caramelized coffees. All of these were good straight, with s bit of sugar and easily stood up to milk. The espresso's brew up with a full body, plenty of strength and a nice layer of crema.
The CBTL Americano is a value oriented single serve espresso brewer that delivers a good espresso, authentic and strong. The variety of coffees and teas are a bonus, and one that we took advantage of over the last few weeks. A large reservoir and spent capsule bin made maintenance easy, and with capsules available at local Bed Bath and Beyond stores, the system looks convenient to re-charge.
The CBTL Americano is available at CBTL.com
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Posted by Scott Martin at January 16, 2012 8:22 PM
There are a couple issues in this review that may not be entirely accurate. First, it is a great review and I appreciate the author for writing it up, this was actually one of the resources that convinced me to switch to the CBTL away from the Keurig. I am working my way through various capsules and can't express how much I am glad I made the change (though I have been a kcup user for at least 6 years). The coffee is better and smoother, and the espresso option is awesome.
1) The review states there is not a standby mode, an oversight, when in fact it does according to the manual on page 12, section 5 Power Energy Savings: Sleep Mode. After 4 hours of inactivity the system will go to sleep mode. To wake, just press ay brewing button to start preheating the water for brewing. I am glad it has this, as when I initially read this review the absence of this feature was a fairly big one in my eyes.
2) The review mentions an iced coffee setting. I presume this is the 9 oz setting on the last button. It does indeed look like the icon has little ice cubes. And maybe that is what they are, but the manual consistently refers to this setting as the hot chocolate setting. This is not that big of a deal, just thought I would mention it. All of these brew settings are just suggestions in my mind anyway. I actually find myself stopping the coffee at about 6-7 ounces (by pressing any of the buttons during the 8 oz brewing session) as I like my coffee a little stronger. Though I have to admit, I am finding I like Americano's even better (an empty long espresso to get just hot water, then pop in an espresso capsule and do a short espresso shot)