HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
What's your latest food quest?

Cappuccino maker?

sweetfern Nov 7, 2010 03:06 PM

Here;s the scoop: I love cappuccino. I bought a Starbucks cappuccino maker. I tried and tried, I gave up. I need help, here. What machines do people use, successfully? And not a machine that costs a
million bucks, surely this isn't necessary.


  1. c
    Chowrin Nov 7, 2010 07:32 PM

    Miss Sylvia is reasonably priced. Check out Sweet Marias, they sell competent stuff.
    I also hesitantly recommend the Gaggia, which is moderately priced -- WATCH IT LIKE A HAWK, its boiler is a little hot-happy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chowrin
      scubadoo97 Nov 8, 2010 03:14 PM

      I agree the Sylvia is an excellent home espresso machine but it's finicky with grind and unless the OP will serious about making espresso they would be better off with a lesser quality espresso machine as milk will cover up a lot of sins.

    2. c
      CookingwithMochi Nov 8, 2010 08:07 AM

      Are you opposed to capsule machines? The Nespresso machines are all really great with amazing coffee and easy clean-up. Plus the machines have 19 bars of pressure which helps to produce that wonderful creme so essential to good espresso. Some of the nespresso machines come with the aeroccino, which is an electric device that automatically steams milk appropriate for lattes or cappuccinos. You would just chain out the little attachment in the machine for this distinction.

      1. Eiron Nov 8, 2010 10:28 AM

        Which Starbucks machine did you buy, & what's not happening the way you want it to?

        Many people use many different machines with great success. Sometimes it's just a matter of changing your technique a little to fit your particular machine.

        How much are willing to spend?

        You'll need to start with a "good" grinder before acting on upgrading your machine. What grinder are you using now?

        4 Replies
        1. re: Eiron
          Eiron Nov 8, 2010 10:33 AM

          CoffeGeek.com is a great source for reviews, info & tips on all things coffee.

          HomeBarista.com is nice too, but they tend to poo-poo any equipment purchases below $1,000 or any views that don't follow the so-called "3rd wave" coffee house fashion.
          That makes them more of specialty/cult source than a really helpful site.

          1. re: Eiron
            scubadoo97 Nov 8, 2010 03:20 PM

            And I will add to Eiron's post that the grinder is more important than the espresso machine when it comes to making espresso. Once you start adding 2/3 milk in a latte or cappuccino and adding sugar based flavorings the quality of the espresso is a little less important. Just look at Starbucks

            One could use a stove top moka pot and turn out a fine milk based drink for pennies compared to a entry level espresso machine.

            1. re: scubadoo97
              Chowrin Nov 8, 2010 10:09 PM

              the grinder? really... you've never had a cappuchino taste like blueberry juice before... or peanutbutter, I take it?

              The quality of beans, and freshness after roasting make ALL the difference in the world.

              A proper cappuchino is rather alcoholic (and not shelf-stable enough to be lab-tested).

              1. re: scubadoo97
                Chowrin Nov 8, 2010 10:11 PM

                ever pulled a pure kenyan cappuchino? ;-) so... so bright!

            2. tim irvine Nov 8, 2010 04:38 PM

              Agree on the mocha pot ... My bialetti cranks out good milk based drinks like latter...the closer it gets to espresso, however, the more I miss a true espresso maker. If you look at anything as pricey as a Silvia check out Le'lit

              7 Replies
              1. re: tim irvine
                Sid Post Nov 9, 2010 02:22 AM

                Moka pots are pretty common in Italy and make a good cup of coffee but, they aren't nearly as good as an espresso. Part of this difference may be due to inferior coffee at home versus the barista down the street. Still a good cup pulled from a high pressure machine is nicer.

                Does anyone have comments on the "pods" or Illy iperEspresso ?

                These pod systems seem like a good solution for many like the Original Poster. The cheap department store pod systems never impressed me but, the Illy Francis system for $125 is very tempting to complement my Pasquini Livia.

                1. re: Sid Post
                  sweetfern Nov 9, 2010 04:45 AM

                  OK--my grinder is Krups and has 2 blades that go at lightening speed.
                  My Starbucks espresso makerI just could never figure it out--the cup where the coffee went--first to the left and then to the right? etc. Lousy directions. Skim milk? Whole milk? I went down to Starbucks and watched cappuccino being made, I've forgotten about my findings
                  in re milk.
                  I have one mug off coffee in the morning, I use the Bodum press system--little jar of glass with plunger. I don't want to wait too long for that cup. When I have people over I'd LOVE to be able to serve them really good coffee. The lilly "system" is bogus, in my opinion, because I want to be able to choose my beans. OK--beans. My stomach rebels at super espresso beans, so I choose beans with a dull finish. Espresso hits my stomach all wrong.

                  For the rest of the day I drink herbal tea--maybe I should put this in a separate heading. I have a friend who keeps his pot of herbal tea on a plug in heating unit to be ready for guests--I love this concept of hospitality--ready to go when someone shows up.

                  sweetfern--Original Poster :)

                  1. re: sweetfern
                    scubadoo97 Nov 9, 2010 07:06 AM

                    Sweetfern it will hard for you to ever get an espresso machine to produce a good shot when using a blade grinder. I think this is one reason your experience with this espresso machine was do dismal. If you are not getting good compression on the puck there will be leaks as the water finds the path of least resistance. A Starbucks espresso machine is a basic entry level home machine and there are much worse out there. What it does give you is the ability to froth milk. Something you can't do with a moka pot. You may want to upgrade your grinder and see if your machine works better before throwing it out. As you move up to better quality espresso machines the grind becomes even more important which is why I stated that the grinder is more important than the machine. The Starbuck machine is a semi-automatic which still requires a lot from the user to grind,dose, tamp and pull the shot. There are a lot of mistakes one can make with each step which will have negative effects on the shot.

                    1. re: sweetfern
                      Chowrin Nov 9, 2010 07:51 AM

                      a good burr grinder will set you back about $100 bucks or so...
                      got great info and pricing

                      1. re: Chowrin
                        sweetfern Nov 9, 2010 08:12 AM

                        OK, I checked the web site and it looks as though a burr grinder is in my future, I never knew it was so important.
                        You are so right about the many mistakes one can make, I have probably made them all. I will persevere and try again.

                        Any advice on a machine which is one step above the Starbucks entry level?


                        1. re: sweetfern
                          chuckl Nov 9, 2010 09:04 AM

                          What's your budget for the grinder and espresso machine

                        2. re: Chowrin
                          Eiron Nov 9, 2010 10:48 AM

                          Actually, don't expect to pay less than $200 for a half-way decent, espresso-capable grinder.

                          Something like this, at a minimum:
                          (this is comparable to the Le'lit PL043 at ~$240


                          If you have the "Barista" model espresso machine, then I think you have a pressurized portafilter. That will give you moderate quality shots without much fuss.

                          Upgrade your grinder first (as much as you can afford), & see where that leads before making any other changes.

                  2. n
                    Nyleve Nov 9, 2010 11:20 AM

                    I have a very nice little lower-end Saeco machine that does the trick for me. Saeco makes a wide range of espresso machines - from less than $200 all the way up and beyond. I got mine on Ebay as a refurbished model. It makes an entirely (to my unrefined taste buds) serviceable espresso and even has a little automatic frothy milk dispensing gizmo for making cappuccinos and lattes (which most serious espressophiles would sneer at). But I like because it's simple enough for me to do even when I'm half asleep.

                    Of course the coffee itself is pretty key and I agree a good grinder is important OR ELSE get good espresso beans ground where you buy them (which is what I do).

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Nyleve
                      sweetfern Nov 9, 2010 01:22 PM

                      I think what I should do for now is get a good grinder, try out the Starbucks machine again, and see where this gets me. I will also look at the "lower-end Saeco machine" and see how that looks.

                      I am upgrading my kitchen implements AND the windows to make a really harmonious environment. I now need a small & powerful kitchen fan, so will put that on another topics list.

                      Thank you SO MUCH for your help! All of you!


                      1. re: sweetfern
                        scubadoo97 Nov 9, 2010 01:42 PM

                        That was my advise sweetfern. Which *$ machine do you have? I would not think that you would need to replace you machine, just get a better grind and learn/practice the techniques to pull a shot properly and build the drink. I have a Solis SL-70. Not a top of the line machine but my grinder is a Mazzer Mini. The Mazzer is an excellent home and light commercial grinder. For me the Solis is the weak link but it still produces a shot that is more than half crema that has good stability without the use of the pressurized portafilter which should go in the garbage.

                        Here is a page from coffeegeek with consumer reviews of espresso machines. This page has the Starbucks machines.


                        1. re: sweetfern
                          chuckl Nov 10, 2010 08:37 AM

                          Once you figure out which grinder you want, check out ebay, where you can find some good deals. I use a rancilio rocky with my silvia and while it's not a mazzer or macap it does a good job.

                      Show Hidden Posts