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Unico Splendor - Danny Hoffman's Review
Posted: October 27, 2005, 1:48am
review rating: 6.7
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Unico Splendor Espresso Machine
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Arrow The Unico Splendor has 4 Reviews
Arrow The Unico Splendor has been rated 8.10 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since August 1, 2005.
Arrow Unico Splendor reviews have been viewed 28,100 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Danny Hoffman 6.66
Tobias Åkeblom 6.00
Patrick Anwandter 6.00
Jack Dohmen 5.50

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.0
Manufacturer: Unico Quality: 9
Average Price: $1,900.00 Usability: 6
Price Paid: $1,500.00 Cost vs. Value 7
Where Bought: Cafe Joe - Israel Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 1 year Overall 8
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned: Marlinc One Group Electronic
Bottom Line: A good machine that will consistently make you good shots once you learn its quirks. It looks great on your countertop, too. But the lack of an external refill point is a real negative. My next machine will not be an HX, but a double boiler machine.
Positive Product Points

Beautiful - All stainless retro look is fantastic.
Seems to be very well made
Works well and consistently
Heats up quickly
Makes good coffee
Easy to use and maintain internal water softener system
Small and compact on countertop

Negative Product Points

Machine not plumbed in, and no external refill, so you have to remove  the cup warmer tray to refill it.
No water level guage, so you can't see how close you are to needing a refill.  This is an inconvenience.

Pressure adjust guage internal and not easily accessed.

Very sensitive to changes in grind and tamp.  Small changes can produce relatively big changes in the pull.

Steam wand could be longer, better placed, and able to rotate more - but it is okay.

Boiler pressure guage, but no pump pressure guage. I think this type of machine should have both.

Detailed Commentary

I downgraded to this machine from a one group commercial machine.

The one group was a great machine, but I decided it took up too much room and used up too much electricity, so a home style HX machine was the next best bet.

The machine is a very slightly used demo (it had pulled about 75 shots) that I got from the dealer of the one group on a straight trade - my old one group for the Splendor.

I think the Splendor is a pretty typical HX machine in operation. When turned on, the ready light goes off  in about 5 minutes, but the machine isn't really hot for about 15 minutes.  Pulls earlier than this will get you sour espresso, even if you run several hundred cc of hot water through the group.

The machine pulls shots well and consistently, and produces lots of crema. I find that my best shots come from a grind and tamp from which the first espresso runs out of the portafilter about 10 seconds after the brew switch is engaged, and then is cut off after about 20 more seconds.  A total pull time of 30 seconds, and not 25, as is often recommended.

The Splendor is however, very sensitive to relatively small changes in grind and tamp.  My shots' taste and volume can change dramatically if I change the grind and tamp. I usually give a light tamp and find that giving even a slightly harder one together or a somewhat finer grind can cause the machine to choke, for instance. This is not a real problem but  it took me a while to get used to making only very small adjusments when fine tuning my grind and tamp.

Like all HX-E61 type machines, it is designed for pulling repeated shots. In a home environment where shots are only pulled a few times a day, it is difficult to cool the group head down to the right shot temperature once the machine has been on for over 20-30  minutes. I find that I have to run about 500 cc of hot water through the group to cool it to proper espresso making temperature once it has been on for a while.  This is somewhat inconvenient, but all it really means is that you just have to make the cool down part of your shot making routine.  I will probably play with the pressure valve a bit to see if I can cool the machine down a little. (See one year follow up below. I did this and it was a big improvement in convenience and shot consistency).

This need to cool down the group is  a "feature" of all HX-E61 type machines, as far as I know.  If you do make several shots in a row, the Splendor does fine and makes good shots consistently once you've cooled it down or after the first one.

I don't drink a lot of milk based drinks so the steaming isn't extremely important to me. The steam wand is a little short and lacking in movement in all directions, but it is definitely okay. Just realize that the relatively short wand means you want to use 12-20 ounce milk pitchers not the larger "barista style" ones.  

The steaming power is nothing to write home about, but adequate for home use and the smaller pitchers I mentioned.  Since the boiler of the machine is not large (only 1.3 liter, I think) it won't steam large quantiites of milk repeatedly without a short break - it doesn't have the capacity of a true commercial machine. But don't get me wrong, I  produce enough good microfoam for a couple of cappas without any problem. However,  if you drink mostly milk drinks and make several at a time, you may want to find a similar machine with a bit more steaming stamina.

My only real complaint about the machine is that the water tank can't be refilled without removing the cup warmer tray. This isn't hard  -  I can do it wth only one hand and without taking the cups off the tray. But since the machine usually needs a significant amount of water run through the group in shot preparation, it needs to be refilled fairly often. I refill about once a day. If it had an external water intake spout, it would be much more convenient.

Overall the machine performs as expected for this type of machine and I'm happy with it.

Buying Experience

Great, as I have a relationship with the dealer.

Three Month Followup

no comment

One Year Followup

My main problem with this unit when I received it was that it ran too hot and was very difficult to cool down to proper shot temperature - and the pressure adjust for the boiler is internal and not readily accessessed.
However, I did turn the pressure down slightly from the level set by the dealer - from a max of about 1.3 to about 1.0 bar. This greatly improved my ability to quickly cool down the machine. I now run about 1 cup of water through the machine as I am grinding and tamping my shot. When I'm ready with the PF, the machine is good to go, and I get good shots consistently now. So my comments about temperature from a year ago aren't relevant anymore. (Note: this did slightly reduce the steam power, but that doesn't bother me.)

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review rating: 6.7
Posted: October 27, 2005, 1:48am
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