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the detailed review - jura capresso s9
Jura Capresso S9 - Operation and Controls
Introduction | Overview | Specifications | First Use | Operation | Maintenance | Performance | Comparisons | Long Term | Conclusion
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I covered quite a bit about the operation and controls of the Jura Capresso S9 on the previous page; but given that this is the "proper" page for it, and that some people may only read this page, I'm going to repeat some of the instructions.

NB: By the time some of you may read this, the S9 may be discontinued by Jura Capresso, and replaced by the Jura Capresso S9 Avant, an upgraded model. Most of my comments below will apply to the new model.

Getting your fix

Did I mention this machine is programmable to the hilt? Let's recap:

  • Amount of coffee (display will read POWDER QUANTITY)
  • Coffee temperature (NORMAL or HIGH)
  • Cup size (display will read WATER QUANTITY)
  • Steam portion (this lets you program by time how long the steam wand will work)
  • Amount of hot water (preprogrammed water volume, display reads TEA PORTION)
  • Claris filter cartridge (sets up the filtration system)
  • Water hardness (use that water hardness strip, if you're not using the claris filter)
  • Economy mode (controls how long the steam thermoblock is active after use)
  • Clock/time
  • Auto turn-on (set by time of day)
  • Auto shut-off (set by how much time since last use)
  • Supplies and cup counter (information only)
  • Languages

Overview Video - click to play quicktime movie.
Overview Video
A video giving an overview of all the S9's abilities. Quicktime required.

So let's focus on the auto stuff. You can program this machine to turn itself on in the morning, or whenever you want. That's good. But the machine will most likely need manual input by you before you're ready to brew - that's because the machine likes to keep itself clean, and you'll see RINSE UNIT on the display panel. Pressing the rinse button takes care of this, and other than that, the machine is ready to go.

Let's assume you've programmed in your desired volumes for each shot button. (if you haven't, I'll refer you to the Jura Capresso Impressa S9 PDF Manual, on pages 18-22 for all the programming details).

Then all that is required is putting a cup under the hot water spout, opening the hot water dial (I refuse to call it the tea portion dial ;)), heating your cup, dumping the water, then putting the cup under the brew spouts, and pressing your desired brew button.

Yes, it's just that simple. It's a Super automatic, for gosh sakes!

Making an Americano is not that much more difficult - preheat your cup, dump the water, add more hot water to the cup by (again) using the hot water dial, then press your desired brewing switch.

Now, what about your choices. Should you program your buttons in a specific way?

Well, since the machine's grinder volume settings (programmable, of course) vary also based on what button is pressed, yes you should.

Let's start with the elegant, minimalist espresso. I personally have set the grind volume to maximum for this; but even then, the short shot will have a lower "high end" for grinds used than the larger cup, special cup, or double shots. For me, its sufficient. I've measured the height and weight of the spent pucks from the single shot espresso (max grind volume used), and my best guess is we're starting with a solid 11 grams used for that single shot of 40ml (1.25oz). (I measured by allowing the pucks to dry for a week, removing most of the water from the puck - my estimates are based on the remaining water + ground coffee is the equivalent of the dry ground coffee with unextracted oils and other stuff).

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The larger shot (lower left button) seems to use a bit more coffee - about 12 grams at the maximum setting.

Special coffee does not seem to use much more coffee - my best measurements show about 12 grams for that button as well.

Doubles do use more coffee, but seem to both max out at about 15-16 grams used per shot build. Not too bad, but if we had a top end of 18 or 20 grams, I'd be happier.

So... if you want a good double shot of espresso, use the double short shot - and keep your programmed volume (for the single shot) low - about 30mls (1oz). If you like a decent single, program it to about 40mls (1.25oz

How do I have our test machine set up? After much experimentation, these numbers work best for me (all grind settings to maximum grind volume used):

Special button: 150ml (5oz) (this is my "cafe crème" button - but I also adjust the grind to much coarser for it)

Single Espresso: 40mls (1.25oz), with the double being just shy of 75mls (2.5oz)

Large Espresso: 50mls (1.75oz), with the double being roughly 100mls (3.25oz)

Milky Stuff

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Ahh milk. Poor milk. If you read our Milk Frothing Guide (and who hasn't), you know that the enemy of sweetness in milk is big bubbles or instant frothing systems.

Instant frothing systems? What the heck is that?

Well, any system that instantly converts milk from 3-5C temperatures (>40F) to 60+C temperatures (150F or higher) millimeters at a time, tends to kill many of the sweet conversions that milk can go through.

Err. It doesn't completely kill sweetness. There's still lots of residual sweetness in steamed and frothed milk using this method to heat up, but there is some serious sweetness lost that traditional "advanced" milk frothing methods keep intact.

The FrothXpress Plus system on the Jura Capresso Impressa S9 machine works extremely well for the neophyte latte or cappuccino lover. It even produces a sufficiently "micro" style froth that can be used for pouring latte art (no kidding!). But one thing it does also do is kill much of the "whipped cream like" sweetness that traditional frothing is more likely to keep intact, in the hands of a skilled operator.

What's the trick? Well, the slower introduction of heat is one thing - in traditional steaming, you're heating up millimeters of milk at a time, but not from 3C to 60C in a millisecond. No - you're heating millimeters of milk, but every dozen milliseconds or so, that milk heats up maybe 5, 10C in a stretch - then it swirls out of the way, and new, colder milk replaces it, to be heated up and swirled away.

And... and this is key - and, when frothing, the real trick is to introduce most of the "air" you want (to create foam) in the first few seconds of frothing - or until the milk pitcher is at about 32-35C (about 90F). Then you "sink the wand" to the near bottom of the frothing pitcher. See, sugars in the milk transform with heat. Heat the foam too much, and you kill off the more "tongue noticeable" sugars, and leave a more flat tasting foam. Stopping the actual "Foaming part" at about 33C means you leaving those sugars in place. Try it one day ;)

So... back to the Jura Capresso S9. Is all lost for super sweet foam? Naw... fortunately, and with a little practice, the second more pedestrian foaming system can be used like a "traditional" steaming wand. If maximum sweetness is something you seek in your cappuccinos and macchiatos, it can be done.

So let's talk about the "Dual Frother Plus" system - the hands on frother. It has a sleeve that slides up or down. Slide it down, and it becomes a "froth aiding system"

Never. Ever. Slide that sleeve down. Promise me, okay?

Froth with sleeve up
Frothing Video
Click the pic to see Jura Capresso's video of how to (not) use the froth plus frother. :) (works in IE and Firefox, Quicktime needed)

Leave the sleeve up. Froth by hovering the tip at the surface of your milk, listening for the tell-tale sign of air mixing with the steam. We don't want big gurgling sounds, just a low, dense rumble. Experiment with the angle of the wand, the angle of your pitcher to the wand, the works. You'll figure it out.

Once you get to roughly 90F (33C), sink the wand deep into the milk. Finish up to around 65-68C (155F).

Mmmm, sweet milk texture and taste.

Okay - why not use the device with the sleeve down? Because it creates horrible, huge, blech bubbles. And while I'm at it, the advice in the video (linked on the right) is not sound advice - if you must, positively use the froth aider, do so at the start of your frothing, then slide the sleeve up midway through to continue heating the milk. Hopefully, this action will reduce the size of the bubbles and leave you with better foam.

Enough said about that, right?

FrothXpress - Click to view video
FrothXpress Video
A demonstration of the FrothXpress system. Click to view video (quicktime required)

How about the FrothXpress system. Well here's the good news: it's good enough that even complete newbies can create microfroth with it. Latte art skills extra, of course, but you can get pourable latte art foam from it.

Other good news. It's insanely easy to use. My initial use of the device was flawed because of a clogged intake tube (I don't know how that happened), but once cleaned out, and with the program steam button programmed, the FrothXpress Plus system made perfect (visually) cappuccinos every time, with literally two button presses: one button to brew the shot, and one to steam the milk. That’s it.

As for taste. Well, it doesn’t' taste bad, per se. It doesn’t' make your milk stinky (caveat - use super cold milk to start, or it will cook your milk at the hottest setting on the FrothXpress Plus). But it doesn't deliver anything close to the good sweetness that frothing the traditional way can.

Short and sweet to the point kinda stuff: it will produce visually nice drinks that are still probably better than half the cafes out there. See, at those cafes, they're reheating milk, over and over again in those gigantic 48oz steaming pitchers, adding only 120mls or so of new, fresh milk with each go.

The worst thing you can do to cappuccino or latte milk is re-steam it. Too many cafes are guilty of this.

So in that aspect, the Jura Capresso Impressa S9's FrothXpress Plus system produces a much superior product in the milk department. And it looks great.

Other Operational Stuff

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So is the Jura Capresso Impressa S9 just about pulling shots and steaming milk? Pretty much. But there are some other things the machine is capable of as well, and other issues that crop up during use.

I guess my most negative thing about the Jura Capresso S9, and all Capresso (and Jura Capresso) Super Autos is that they do a pump-driven preinfusion for every shot pulled, and there's no way to turn it off.

Boo.

I am not a fan of pump driven preinfusion. This is where the pump will activate for about 3 seconds or so, pause for another 2 or 3 seconds, then continue the shot.

I am a fan of natural preinfusion. A machine equipped with an E61 grouphead (like many of the high end Isomac machines or similar) use a near-neutral pressure preinfusion method where the puck is saturated with brewing water for up to five or seven seconds before being "slammed" with the full brunt of 9BAR of pressurized water. I do believe it has the capability of improving the shot.

Pump driven preinfusion, where the ground coffee is slammed with 9BAR of pressure, then paused, then slammed again - it hurts espresso shots. Don't believe me? If you have a traditional home machine, let's say a Solis SL-70 or another machine without a 3 way solenoid bypass relief valve, brew two shots consecutively. Brew the first shot the normal way. Brew the second shot by turning on the pump switch for a few seconds, turning it off, pausing, then turning it on again.

I'll guarantee you that, if your tastebuds are good enough, you will notice a difference in the taste. And I think the difference comes from channeling - water finding the path of least resistance. The first pump-slam disrupts the puck. The pause creates a vacuum for a brief moment which further disrupts the puck. Then the next pump-slam drills through portions of the puck, leading to poorer extraction.

This is all very much a theory of mine, but I do put it to empirical testing. I have a Krups Orchestro Dialog machine (which, ironically enough is nearly identical to some Capresso super automatics - manufactured by the same company), but the Krups allows the user to turn preinfusion on or off.

In the research for that machine's Detailed Review, I ran through ten espresso shots. One with preinfusion on, one off. One on, one off. I passed the espressos off to a small tasting group blind, and asked them to judge the shots. The non-preinfused shots eeked out a slightly higher rating - most notably shots 8 and 10 (highest of the bunch, both non-preinfused).

In short - this is a call out to Capresso - give users the ability to turn preinfusion off, on all future super automatics you put on the marketplace.

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Bean Hopper
I like the inclusion of a plastic clear lid which seals off some airflow. Note only 6 settings :(
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Hopper Removed
The hopper can be removed by removing two screws. Yeah, it gets oily.
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Conical Burr
Standard burr set seen in dozens of machines and grinders.

With regards to the grinder, one comment we're seeing in the consumer reviews are complaints about beans being stuck in the hopper.

Folks. Stop using Starbucks or Peet's extra dark roast.

The thing is, oily beans are not a problem unique to the Jura Capresso Impressa S9. Every grinder from the Rancilio Rocky to the Mazzer Super Jolly have problems with beans getting stuck in the hopper. The culprit is oily beans. If you want to use oily, dark roasted beans (why? Oh God, why????), then, well "deal with it". Stop blaming the machine.

That said, in my long term use of the machine I found myself wishing there was one or two "finer settings" on the Impressa S9. I have it set at the finest setting, but the flow rate is still too quick. Not by much (by super automatic standards), but I would have loved the ability to really get the flow rate down to somewhere between ristretto and espresso flow. Right now, it's like "quick espresso flow" at the finest setting. The other settings on the dial are all but useless to me, save for when I need to pull "caffe suise" style coffee (don't ask).

Wait... ask about it.

One day, the Swiss will "get" something (this machine is swiss made and designed - and when I say "the Swiss", I'm specifically talking about Swiss-based manufacturers and designers who think they know what the N. American market wants more than the N. American market themselves state - been there, done that with both Jura and Solis).

Hookay... let me get back to this:"Cafe Suisse" is fine and dandy in Switzerland, but in North America, espresso is king. Cafe Suisse requires a different mentality and approach to brewing coffee: a) water doesn't have to be as hot because you're brewing a full cup (the S9, if left at "normal temperature" in the programming, is too cold for espresso - but "high temperature" is nearly spot on); b) grinder doesn't have to grind super fine because you're grinding for a 6+ ounce extraction; c) pump-driven preinfusion works well with Cafe Suisse drinks because of the extended brewing times.

None of these things are good for espresso brewing. You want a grinder to go as fine as possible without "choking" the machine in order to slow down the brew and give you a 25 second shot of espresso. Right now, with the grinder on the finest setting I get maybe a 12, 13 second extraction.

Other than that, the grinder does the job. I rarely have problems with "stuck beans" because I don't use over-roasted, oily coffee. The grinder is pretty much the "off the shelf" conical burr group you find in machines like most super autos, the Solis Maestro grinders, the Starbucks Barista grinder and others. Does the job. Just give me finer settings.

Hot Water, Boooyah!
Hot water delivery on the Impressa S9 is... well, impressive. I ran temp tests (see the Performance section, link way up the page on the right), It's definitely the best hot water system I've ever tried on any super automatic, the Franke Saphira included.

You can, of course program the volume served by turning the hot water dial on the machine. I tend to program it for a lot - about 250mls. The reason is most of the time I manually control the hot water delivery for my americanos, but sometimes I need to pour out hot water for the tea lovers in my life (how could you! Traitors!), and 250mls is roughly 8 ounces - just perfect for a spot o' tea.

Temps are amazing. For anything less than 120mls (4oz), we're talking 92C temperatures (about 198F) for that entire volume.

For the full 250ml load (about 8oz), the temperature rarely drops below 90C (194F). Amazing.

Delivery of the hot water is consistent, fairly fast, and sputter free. Awesome job, Jura Capresso!

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93.8C
Americano volumes...
95.5
75mls in, looking good
94.4
125mls in, great!
93.3
160mls in, still awesome.
91.6
Done, 200mls of water. Nice

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Introduction | Overview | Specifications | First Use | Operation | Maintenance | Performance | Comparisons | Long Term | Conclusion
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Detailed Review Sections
Arrow 1. Introduction
Aarow 2. Overview
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Aarow 4. First Use
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Aarow 10. Conclusion
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