Automatic Coffee Machines have been all the rage lately; from relatively inexpensive capsule machines right through to fully automatic barista replacing behemoths, consumers have fallen in love with the luxury of good quality, home brewed coffee.
Read on for our review
The Exprelia EVO HD8857/03 is currently Philips Saeco's highest spec automatic espresso machine. With adjustable strength brewing and a cleverly integrated milk carafe, the HD8857/03 is targeted at the genuine coffee lover.
And while we aren't bean freaks, first thing in the morning we don't get up for much less than a decent cup of joe.
Other than some minor accessories and the detachable drip tray, the Exprelia EVO HD8857 comes shipped as a complete unit. The drip tray slots straight onto the machine's front with minimal fuss and its chrome finish perfectly matches the machine's elegant chrome fittings.
The chrome drip tray is all pretty standard fare other than a small rubber grommet on the right hand side that helps secure the milk carafe. A bright orange level indicator is located centrally which rises as the drip tray fills.
Beyond the drip tray and the front fittings, the Exprelia is essentially a cuboid 245mm wide and 310mm long (not including the 110mm protrusion of the drip tray). The machine rises 360mm high with its lids closed but needs at least an additional 135mm clearance to allow easy access the bean hopper and water tank.
The unit's brushed aluminium top is split into two halves, marking the lids of both the water tank (left) and the bean hopper (right). Overlapping these two large lids is a comparatively small flap used to feed the HD8857 pre-ground coffee grounds.
Other than a small black service door button on the right face, the brushed aluminium sides of the machine are identical, with three sets of exhaust vents on each one.
In contrast, the rear of the HD8857 is made from a highly polished black plastic and features a large SAECO logo. A power button and power cable receptacle are also located on the rear face beneath the logo.
Unlike many automatic espresso machines on the market, the HD8857's front face has a crisp and clean look about it. Above the drip tray is the large chrome-like dispensing spout. On the side of this faux-chrome fitting are two small black catches which retract the hidden drip dispensers. On the front of the dispensing spout is a circular dial which is used to adjust the coffee crema and intensity.
To the left of the dispensing spout is the rubber handled hot water/steam wand and to the right, sits the milk carafe. While the carafe is not in use, a small magnetic cover plate hides the carafe's connectors and when the carafe is in use, this small connector can be cleverly stored on the water tank's internal lid.
Above all this action is a bright white OLED screen measuring 65 x 34mm which is accompanied by eight large white surround-lit buttons. Between these and the screen are four smaller navigation buttons which are used for traversing the HD8857's menu system.
Our retail package included a standard three prong power cable, a cleaning brush, a 5g tube of food-grade silicone grease, a 250ml bottle of decalcifier, a pre-ground coffee scoop and a water hardness strip. A multilingual instructions booklet, warranty card and a PDF user manual on DVD was also included.
The bottle of decalcifier is a welcome inclusion and the only thing we really wish Philips Saeco would have also included (other than more cleaning accessories) was a hard copy of the user manual.
Even without turning the unit on, from a purely visual standpoint, the Exprelia's metal finish makes it a stunning bit of kit and wouldn't be out of place in the most stylish and luxurious of kitchens.
After slotting in the drip tray, we rinsed and then filled the water tank. And we then poured in some Victoria Coffee Premium 100% High Altitude Mountain Grown beans into the hopper. Within a few seconds of powering up, a language prompt appeared from which we selected English.
This brought the Exprelia to life and it began its rinsing process. About 30 seconds later, the Exprelia EVO logo appeared and it was ready to do our bidding.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, we followed the included instruction booklet and performed the recommended first use manual rinse. As the manual stipulated, we repeated the manual rinse process until the Exprelia informed us that its water tank was empty.
Once complete, we set about brewing ourselves our first espresso. After pushing the espresso button on the top left of the Exprelia, it poured what we have to say was a very watery espresso. After an initial gasp, we surmised the beans were still working their way into the brewing system and sure enough, by the third espresso, the HD8857 produced what looked like a genuine barista made espresso with a nice 4ml crema atop a jet black coffee.
And the taste: Excellent.
UNDER THE HOOD
While the coffee bean hopper and the water tank are easily accessible from the top, the brewing system and coffee grounds drawer are both accessed via the front service door. To open this door, a small black button on the left side needs to be depressed, which allows the whole front face to swing open and reveal the Exprelia's interior.
Inside the Exprelia, the brewing unit sits above a three part coffee ground drawer and the drip tray. The brewing unit and the drawer/tray can be removed with little effort after a few attempts. In any case, Philips Saeco have intelligently included a brewer removal diagram (and a reminder of the maintenance schedule) on the inside of the service door.
While the service door mechanism looks a little odd swinging outwards, it feels strong and is very convenient for placing the Exprelia in small kitchens where lateral space is at a premium.
The water tank is accessed from the Exprelia's top left outer lid and while it can be completely removed, it has a clear internal lid with a handy hole in it to allow the tank to be filled while it still sits inside the unit. Topping up the water tank with a pitcher is convenient, although as it is near impossible to see the max water level line on the tank, care must be taken to not over fill it.
The coffee bean hopper is on the right hand side of the unit's top and like the water tank, has a clear internal lid keeping the beans fresh. Worth noting is that if either of these doors are open, the Exprelia will refuse to operate.
The Exprelia is good this way, in that it clearly and concisely alerts the user when something requires attention, cleaning or emptying.
For testing, we setup the Exprelia as our main coffee machine, dispensing as many as ten cups of coffee per day. With its bright white on-screen display and neat button layout, the Exprelia proved to be a very easy machine to use for even the most technologically illiterate user.
As for quality of brew, coming from a mostly "Instant Coffee" routine, all were impressed by the Exprelia's freshly brewed beverages. The espressos were strong with a good crema, the milk in the cappuccinos was fluffy and the cappuccinos smooth. At the medium setting, we found all beverages to be perfect drinking temperature.
The routine refilling of the water tank and filling of the coffee bean hopper was quickly mastered but the emptying of excess coffee grounds and internal drip tray was a little more involved. If handled incorrectly, the dirty trays/drawer could feel unbalanced in the hand and be prone to spillage. While it wasn't overly difficult, there was a bit of a learning curve before we mastered this procedure.
We experimented with the Exprelia's ability to vary the strength and intensity of the brew and found customising beverages easy. While the grinder can be adjusted to account for the type of beans being used, the dispensing spout mounted crema and intensity adjustment knob, could similarly adjust the taste of our coffees.
Beyond the knobs, using the Exprelia's menu system, the aroma (coffee strength), pre-brewing, coffee length, milk quantity and water temperature could all also be adjusted to suit an individual's particular taste. And with a few button presses, these settings were stored and applied as defaults for each of the Exprelia's dedicated beverage buttons. Easy.
From standby, the Exprelia took just over 70 seconds to heat up and perform an automatic rinse cycle in the default ECO mode.
Depending on the coffee crema and intensity adjustment, we found the Exprelia to take between 45 and 55 seconds to brew an espresso.
We also found the milk carafe system easy to use and making both latte machiatto's and cappuccinos was as easy as filling the carafe with milk, attaching it to the Exprelia, turning the carafe's dispenser clockwise and pushing either the latte machiatto or cappuccino buttons.
Using the carafe to pour hot milk when making lattes and hot chocolate was also easy, using the special beverages button and menu. While the froth was fluffy, we found the warmth of coffee beverages to be just about perfect, when making hot chocolate we found the milk poured from the carafe to be more warm/tepid than hot, per re.
While taste is very subjective, we have to say that we were impressed with all the drinks the Exprelia created. The espressos were well brewed with a nice crema on top and the milk drinks were similarly enjoyable with a genuinely fluffy froth.
The ability to pour pure hot water was handy and while it wasn't quite as hot as our kettle, it was definitely hot enough to make our kettle redundant for most duties.
The temperature of the espressos was good - Not scalding but hot enough at the highest setting to keep most hot espresso drinkers happy. We found the medium heat setting best but your mileage may vary. We also found the strength was good and enjoyed tinkering with the settings to get the taste we wanted - Again, we found the two beans strength to just about right.
In testing, the coffee grounds drawer/internal drip tray needed to be emptied after as little as 5 coffees (and a maximum of 9), depending on the type of beverages brewed, how the cakes happened to rest in the drawer and how quickly the internal drip tray filled up.
As stipulated in the Exprelia's manual, the machine has a number of recommended maintenance procedures that need to be adhered to for smooth operation. Daily cleaning is recommended for the coffee grounds drawer, internal drip tray, water tank and milk carafe (automatic push button clean). Every week, the milk carafe should be washed manually and the exterior drip tray should be emptied. The dispensing spout should also be removed and washed every week along with a rinse of the internal brewing mechanism.
The monthly maintenance schedule suggested that the milk carafe be cleaned with a Milk Circuit Cleaner (not supplied) and that the brewing mechanism be lubricated with the included grease. It is also recommended that the brewing mechanism is cleaned with "Coffee Oil Remover" which can be purchased separately.
The bean hopper should also be wiped down every month (or when it is empty) and finally, the unit should be descaled each month in a procedure taking around 35 minutes. Descaling involves using the small decalcifier bottle supplied with the unit and judging by the label on the inside of the service door, is mandatory for upholding the Exprelia's warranty conditions.
When switched on but unused for five minutes, the Exprelia goes into a screen saver mode, where its normally static Exprelia EVO logo bounces around the screen until its goes into a proper lights out standby mode. This timeout is user selectable (15, 30, 60 or 180 minutes) and if a coffee has been brewed, initiates a brief automatic rinse when triggered.
While the Exprelia was easy to use and brewed a good cup of coffee, some of the design choices made by Philips Saeco made for some interesting quirks.
Firstly, when in standby mode, the Exprelia flashes a red LED around its power button once every three seconds. Conversely, while the Exprelia is turned on, it can only be switched off by pressing the power button for a full three seconds. Both of these quirks aren't especially detrimental to the experience but are certainly unusual.
Another quirk was the Exprelia's insistence on hurrying us up. When selecting a beverage from the menu system (as opposed to a one touch beverage), the user must make each selection within 10 seconds or be booted back to the "Exprelia EVO" ready screen. While 10 seconds may seem like an adequate amount of time, an idle distraction or passing conversation is enough to make you restart your menu navigation. Sure, a timeout makes sense, but maybe it should be increased to a minute or so to reduce unwanted triggering. Curiously, this timeout is not in place when navigating the machine's configuration options.
As previously mentioned, despite the handy refilling hole, the max water level in the tank is difficult to see while the tank is inside the machine, reducing its convenience.
Finally, we experienced a strong vibration during the brewing process on our first machine that quite dramatically vibrated our espresso glasses all over the drip tray. After contacting Philips Saeco, they replaced the machine and while the second unit tested also exhibited some minor vibrations, it was far less prone to gyrating our espresso glasses.
• Espresso technology: Saeco adapting system, Aroma-system: pre-brewing, SBS: creme adaptor
• Milk Variations: Integrated auto milk function, Milk quantity selector, Removable milk carafe
Ease of Use
• Cleaning and maintenance: Automatic coffee circuit rinse, Automatic milk circuit rinse, Descaling cycle
• Usage: Adjustable coffee dispenser, Bypass for grinded coffee, Frontal access to all function, Instant steam (2 boilers), Removable brewing group, Removable watertank
• Energy saving: Selectable Eco-mode
• Boiler: Stainless steel • Frequency: 50 Hz
• Power: 1400 W
• Voltage: 230 V
• Pump Pressure: 15 bar
Weight and Dimensions
• Product dimensions (L x D x H): 245x360x420 mm
• Weight: 14,2 kg
• Coffee bean capacity: 300 gr
• Dump box capacity: 11 servings
• Milk carafe capacity: 0.5L
• Water tank capacity: 1.6L
The Exprelia EVO HD8857/03 brews a great coffee and can make a variety of hot drinks both automatically and through user intervention, manually. The integrated milk carafe works well, producing fluffy warm milk and the general quality of beverages produced was excellent.
While exhausting, the maintenance schedule was manageable and accessing the brewing mechanism and coffee grounds drawer was easy enough. General usage of the machine was a cinch, with one button beverage selection catering to even the laziest of users. Coffee aristocrats are similarly catered for with multiple options and beverage customisation possibilities.
Visually, the Exprelia looks classy and adds a touch of luxury to any kitchen. And to match its aesthetics, it makes... excuse me... a damn fine cup of coffee.
Overall, if you can get past some of the quirkier design choices, the Exprelia EVO is a great choice for your home brewing needs.
The Exprelia EVO HD8857/03 is available now for a recommended retail price of $2499AU at major electrical stores. For more details, including where to purchase, please visit the Philips Saeco website.