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the detailed review - saeco via veneto
Saeco Via Veneto - Overview of the Via Veneto
Introduction | Overview | Detailed Review, Pt. 1 | Detailed Review, Pt. 2 | Conclusion
Saeco Via Veneto
Members' Reviews
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Power to the People!  A great cup for the newbie user, from a pump machine under US $50, makes the Cafe Express a machine worthy of emulation.
Lisa B, Jun 3, 2000
More of Lisa B's Review:
No tale becomes apocryphal faster than that of a retail steal, but I'll note that I was one of the lucky ones to pick up this Saeco Via Veneto clone (See Also: reviews for Saeco - Other Machines) for $50 at damark.com.  The word spread quickly on...
An excellent starter machine for not a lot of money.
Kari Rippetoe, Sep 7, 2003
More of Kari Rippetoe's Review:
As I mentioned above, this machine is an excellent value.  I originally bought this 4 years ago, and it still going strong.  It makes a pretty decent espresso shot, although I've been trying to figure out how to pull a God shot on this machine.  I...
18 Reviews have been written for the Saeco Via Veneto so far by our members.
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I am often emailed and asked to recommend a good home machine setup. My pat response is "Rocky and Silvia", meaning the Rancilio Rocky grinder and Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, but recommending a setup that costs $600 plus shipping can be viewed as expensive by many folks.

The problem is, with a more reasonable budget of under $200, the market simply doesn't have anything new that is noteworthy to recommend - after all, I won't recommend a "steam toy" (the cheapie "espresso" machines that only use boiler pressure). But now, for a limited time possibly, there is a "new" machine on the market at one store that can possibly be recommended: the Melitta Café Express machine from damark.com. Many thanks to Jack Denver (regular in the newsgroup alt.coffee) for finding this deal.

I ordered two of these machines to check them out, to do this detailed review, and to find out if the machine is suitable for low budget setups in the home. At the price damark.com is offering these for, I figured anyone even remotely curious could afford it, and maybe someone should find out if the machine will help or hinder their espresso experience.

Before receiving the machines, I spoke with a Saeco importer, as well as a few resellers of Saeco products, asking their opinion on the Via Veneto. Once I got them to talk a bit, the universal opinion was that "an okay machine, but you can do better". As a starter machine, they said it was a good purchase, but for someone wanting serious espresso, they may come away disappointed.

Okay. Reading between the lines, I could tell these folks were not very impressed with the machine, but because the purpose of this review is to describe, use, and advise on a machine who's intended market is not those shopping for a Rancilio Silvia or a Livia 90, I won't let any preconceived notions cloud my words too much. I can't help the fact that I don't like froth aiders or crema enhancers (a justified dislike, btw), but I also realize that not everyone can froth the first time they try.

Once the machines arrived, I can't say I was terribly impressed with what I saw. The machines were clean and shiny plastic, and barely 9 pounds dry. The fit of some of the switch housings was poor, and well, the machine definitely called out "lightweight!!" to me. To a newbie, this machine might instill a few oohs and ahhs, but the attention to outer details was lacking. Maybe the interior is a bit better, we'll see.

Top View
The finish of the crema with all shots on the Cafe Express (with its pressurized crema enhancing portafilter) are always a bit scary, with huge-bubble frothing.

I read the instructions carefully but still had some problems priming the machine for the first time. See the detailed review for why and how I fixed it. My initial shots looked promising, crema-enhanced portafilter notwithstanding - the crema was nice and dark except for the finish, and the shots looked good, until the finish. The general espresso taste was bitter, especially the afterbite.

A note on this - I will cover this more on the following pages, but let me say that bitter aftertaste is not necessarily that bad a thing, especially if you like cappuccinos and lattes. But for espresso, there was a bit too much bite for my liking. I blame it squarely on the crema enhancer.

The machines stood up to a hard month of testing, where I probably used the machines about 4 times more than a typical user would in a month. There were a few quirks noticed, some nit picks, and one genuine complaint, but overall, they came through the month okay.

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Right Side
Left Side

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Introduction | Overview | Detailed Review, Pt. 1 | Detailed Review, Pt. 2 | Conclusion
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Detailed Review Sections
Arrow 1. Introduction
Arrow 2. Overview
Aarow 3. Detailed Review, Pt. 1
Aarow 4. Detailed Review, Pt. 2
Aarow 5. Conclusion
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