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Restaurant espresso isn't bad, it's just made that way.

Restaurant espresso isn't bad, it's just made that way

One of my all time favorite lines is "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way." I really admire a well turned phrase even if it is spoken by a cartoon character and I also think that a paraphrase of it has application to espresso served in restaurants-restaurant espresso isn't bad, it's just made that way.

Espresso is experiencing well deserved growth in the U.S. especially in the foodservice industry. Along with this growth comes new products and equipment designed to make the preparation of espresso easy and "idiot proof." One of my goals in writing this column is to keep you abreast of what's new in the industry and in my April column ("Espresso In Restaurants; Old Concerns, New Products"). I brought you information on pre-measured espresso pods and pre-brewed espresso.

I rely heavily on my readers to share information with me about new products and equipment and actively solicit your input. Recently I picked up my phone and talked to one of my readers who took me up on my request. His name is Van Sintchak, he is president of NACO Distributors, and he called to tell me about the SAECO Super-Automatica Espresso Machine.

Van is a talkative, gregarious person and has been in sales for quite a while. I only mention this because I am a talkative, gregarious person and have been in sales for quite a while so you can imagine both of us trying to get a word in edgewise.

When I heard him say that he was distributing a small, commercial espresso machine that runs on 110, takes up almost no counter space, doesn't have to be plumbed, has a built in grinder and uses whole roasted coffee beans, I actually stopped, listened, asked the name of the unit again and then asked him if he could send me one to experiment with. He did, and I did, and I'd like to give you my two cents on the SAECO SuperAutomatica Espresso Machine.

A friend of mine has a saying, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." I have always taken that to mean as you search for perfection, don't overlook that which is good. The SAECO SuperAutomatica is not a perfect espresso machine but it is a good espresso machine and makes an excellent quality cup of espresso.

It makes a good espresso, the machine itself is virtually idiot proof, it's easy to clean, requires no special training and is definitely a step in the right direction.

After water is poured into the holding tank and beans are put in the grinder, the machine is ready to go. You just push a button to begin the fully automated brewing sequence. Beans are freshly ground one serving at a time (and yes, the grind is adjustable), the espresso is brewed with the exact amount of water you select and the used grounds are dispensed into a drawer to be emptied later. The little machine then recycles itself and is ready to prepare another espresso immediately. The brewing mechanism is removable with one hand, requires no tools and is dishwasher safe.

Let me interject something to my friends and associates who are espresso purists, this little machine could never take the place of a larger commercial espresso machine and I don't think it was meant to. It does have merit though for restaurants that do not not have the time, space or money for a larger commercial unit. If it would be a choice of serving bad espresso made on a large commercial unit or good espresso made on this small commercial unit, I'd rather see customers served a good cup.

The material that accompanies the machine states that the process takes about 45 seconds but I found it to take a few seconds longer. You have to remember thought that I had the grinder set on one of the finest grind settings and if it was a bit coarser, it would probably take under 45 seconds per brew each time. Also, I timed the process from the instant I pressed the button to begin grinding until the coffee was ejected into the dump box. I feel safe in saying that the whole process takes 45 to 60 seconds depending on the grind.

Besides the time saving benefits, the machine also has other advantages. No special training is required, all you do is push a button, even the most harried waiter or busboy can do that; there is no waste since each espresso is prepared one serving at a time and is ground, measured, and packed inside the machine (there is no pile of wasted coffee grounds under the grinder); the machine is easy to clean (it has a one piece brew mechanism that I removed and washed in my kitchen sink), is energy efficient (120 volts/1280 watts), and can be placed anywhere since it contains its own water supply. You also have control over the serving size by turning a little dial on the front of the machine.

I also have to comment on the thickness and longevity of the crema, I actually measured it and it was consistently around 1/4 inch each time. (Remember though that you have to use good quality espresso beans to achieve this crema, I used Lavazza Bar Super Crema to do my experimentation.)

The only reservations I have concern the machines ability to quickly froth milk for cappuccino. When I frothed milk to make a cappuccino, it seemed to take a longer time than I thought it should. Admittedly I don't have much experience frothing milk since I prefer traditional espresso but I had to go through a couple of steps to make the steamer work and after using it, I had to "reset" the system for coffee brewing. While this way easy enough for me to do in my kitchen, and would be easy to do in a small volume restaurant, I don't know how good a job the machine would do in steaming milk for several capuccino's in a row as would be required in a large volume restaurant. Americans usually drink cappuccino, not espresso and while this little machine makes a good espresso, and better than most I have had across this country, it does not have a quick enough recovery time when steaming milk to steam several in rapid succession.

One Superautomatica is ideal for a small volume restaurant but a large volume one would require a separate steamer unit that does nothing but produce steam (also available through NACO). The cost of the SuperAutomatica is extremely attractive and if you have a larger volume restaurant, I can see two machines and a separate steamer being used.

If you would like more information contact: NACO Distributors, P.O. Box 14, Moraga, CA 94556. Tel: (800) 247-2093. If you would like to see this machine in action, go by booth 1234 at the Western Restaurant Show, August 25-28, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. You be the judge if the machine is right for you.

PHOTO : SAECO Sugar Automatica Espresso machine
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Title Annotation:part 1
Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:column
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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