It is about time that I finally take some time to write a review of my Europicolla. I purchased it about two and a half years ago, and since day one it has produced delicious rhistrettos, espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos, but it has not been an easy path to coffee heaven.
I have been a big fan of espressos for many years and my wife has always loved lattes. After exhaustive research for the perfect machine for home use I had several choices from semi automatics to the lever machines. Since I am a hands on person, and I really wanted to get into the details of espresso making, the choice was clear, a machine that was manual, in which I could control every aspect of pulling a shot&;In contrast with simply pressing a button…
I was concerned about the learning curve Europicolla users had to go thru to get that delicious cup they were looking for, but I had to be patient for the results could surprise me. Yes, it is true that everything has to be fine tuned, from water to coffee freshness, from cleanliness to temperature. It is a very fussy machine that is not forgiving at all!
I purchase my coffee locally here in Mexico, from a roaster that blends medium to dark roasted high altitude arabicas to produce a chocolaty sweet and nutty coffee;, Which I adore. I buy it the day it is roasted, but only about a week or so it reaches its peak and it is not so acidic as on the day of the roast. This coffee has surprised me in quality and has surpassed Illy in terms of the quality and taste I am looking for; I believe that it is mainly because of the freshness issue.
My grinder is a Maestro, which I have learned that it is on the limit of what the Europiccolla will accept, I would recommend something more like a Rocky for better fine-tuning.
Water. Yes it does make a difference in taste, especially when using tap water. I get the best tasting rhistrettos from distilled water mixed with bottled water. Somehow this mix extracts the chocolate sweet flavors of the bean without the chalkiness of tap water.
Temperature. This is a big issue with this machine. Everyday I make two morning cappuccinos, that is about all the machine will do keeping the same temperature. After that the temperature just keeps rising, and one would have difficulty keeping the same consistency in flavor. If you were making more than 4 cappuccinos I would not recommend this machine. At a party I managed to do 8, but I had to constantly turn on and off the machine, not to mention depressurize it before changing shots and filling the reservoir. It is doable, but the quality is not the same, and it takes a lot of time.
The two coffee holders that come with the machine are different beasts that require different approaches to pulling a shot. The single basket is coned which somehow does a better extract than the straight double basket. It is very hard to match flavors with different shot volumes and baskets.
I achieve a rhistretto with 11.5 to 12 grams of coffee with a single pull of the machine. It is a sweet, honey colored shot, with some crema, with a chocolate body and a nutty aftertaste. I use the single basket for this, more than 12 grams will not work and make the shot too hard to pull.
A single can be achieved with the same quantity of coffee on the single basket, but it requires a double pull. The 25 ml is achieved by pulling halfway down, lifting the lever up, and bring it down again. On the double basket you can reproduce this with 14.5 grams, which will produce a lighter version of the above but with more quantity in shot volume.
One of the great things about this machine is pre-infusion time. You can leave that lever up there for as long as you want. With the ratio of the single basket I always pre-infuse for ten seconds, which is about the time the first drops of the nectar starts to touch the bottom of the cup. Then my pull will take about 20 or so seconds to finish, or right before it starts blonding.
By the way, the tamper that comes with the machine is not adequate to produce a flat and clean bedding. I purchased a professional barista tamper that helps me with that. Pressure in tamping has not been significant in terms of flavor; I think that the most important issue is that the coffee is even to avoid cracks.
Frothing is the weakest link in this machine. I have produced more froth with a French press style frother than with the Euro. I use 8 oz. of ice cold (30 to 40 F) milk in a metallic frother, it takes me about 20 to 25 seconds for it to get too hot to stretch the milk further. The issue is that it does not have the same pressure as other machines. It is better suited for lattes, but when it comes to cappuccinos it is a struggle.
I average about two to four coffee drinks a day between my wife and me and friends. I usually enjoy a 4 oz. cappuccino in the morning and an espresso after lunch. After about a thousand coffee drinks I must say that 90 % have been in the very good to excellent range. Out of all espressos I must say that about 10 % has been out of this World. Even in its worse day the Europiccolla has produced better drinks than S%$4646s can on its best day.
In terms of built quality I must say that the electrical parts are excellent. The brass on this thing is beautiful and it is a solid piece of hunk that will last forever. The only issue I have is with the plastic base. I bought the brass version that is a beautiful accessory to the kitchen, but the plastic base is not at the same level and I believe it makes the whole machine not as stable as I would like. No leaks whatsoever after tightening some of its screws, and after a couple of years I had no maintenance issues. I like the idea that less is more, and with this machine less also means less things that can go wrong, therefor less maintenance and more time before service.
My learning curve went up very fast, taking about a week of trials and errors to get it going. The main issue, which will save you a lot of time and headaches, is to purchase fresh coffee and grind it yourself, otherwise you will produce a very quick watery pull of flavorless coffee. Play around with the coarseness of the coffee, and don’t go too fine and make it impossible to pull that lever down. In a nutshell be patient and the machine will reward you with shots that will amaze you.
With a semi automatic you will get better consistency and most probably better froth. With this lever you will get excellent shots and sometimes when the stars are aligned just right, it will produce heavenly nectar that will astonish you.
Today I understand how every aspect of pulling a shot affects flavor, and I have to thank my Europiccolla for that. When the coffee is getting too bitter or sour, the Europiccolla will teach you how temperature, grind coarseness, and water, will affect your shot. You will learn to evaluate your shots and fine tune from that point. This is especially important when getting a different type of coffee or a fresh batch. It will also teach you about preinfusion, and how the way you push that lever down affects flavor.
Maybe one day I will migrate to a semi like a Giotto, but mostly because of being able to produce more drinks and have a better froth. This is a machine you will learn to love with patience and care. If you are new to this I would highly recommend the Euro for you. Yes, it will take a bit more time to get it right, but you will learn how each aspect affects flavor, and you will master coffee making, it will become an art. As perfect as you may get in fine-tuning this machine there is also a magic factor that you will not control, and that, I must say, is what makes it exceptional.