With the price of the high end capsule machines pushing $700, Philips Saeco’s Intelia line of fully automatic espresso machines are enticing coffee lovers to step up to the next level.
Hot on the heels of our review of the top of the line Philips Saeco’s Exprelia EVO HD8857/03, we now take a look at its less expensive sibling, the Intelia HD8752/23.
Read on for our review.
While it is comparatively inexpensive, the Intelia HD8752 is capable of brewing pretty much all the drinks the top of the line Exprelia EVO can, albeit less automatically. The Intelia can brew multi-strength espressos, dispense hot water and with its built in cappuccinatore, produce cappuccinos, lattes and pretty much any warm milk beverage going around.
The Intelia comes almost fully assembled with the brewer, excess coffee grounds drawer and water tank all shipped in place. After removing the main unit from its packaging, the only actual assembly required involves sliding the chrome grilled drip tray in to place.
Beyond the removable power cable, the Intelia package includes a small cleaning brush, a 5g tube of food-grade silicone grease, a pre-ground coffee scoop (which doubles as the grinder adjustment key) and a water hardness test strip.
Also included is a multilingual instructions booklet, a PDF user manual on DVD, a bright orange information card and a warranty booklet.
While we would’ve liked to see a small bottle of decalcifier included like it’s big brother, we were glad to see Philips Saeco included a spare suction tube as standard.
All four faces are comprised of plastic, (silver at the front, black to the rear and sides) and is offset by chrome fittings, chrome cup holder grille and a mirror finish cup storage area. The Intelia’s overall look is modern yet reminiscent of more traditional coffee machine design.
As with most machines, the dispensing spout housing is located centrally with the cappuccinatore to its left. Above the spout is a 50 x 27mm LCD screen which changes its base colour depending on the nature of the information displayed: Green denotes nominal operation, while orange and red are used for alerts. Surrounding the screen are six large buttons which control all of the Intelia’s operations.
The top of the unit is dominated by the raised clear coffee bean hopper and the mirror finish cup storage area which stores three espresso style glasses. On the right side of the hopper is the Intelia’s pre-ground coffee compartment, which is accessed through a small vented circular lid.
The rear and sides of the machine are generally unremarkable, with two sets of small vents located on each side. Other than a power button and connector, the rear is similarly unexciting.
At 450mm in length and 255mm in width (including drip tray), the HD8752 requires a reasonable but not unacceptable amount of kitchen real-estate. The machine has a height of 350mm and weighs approximately 8kg when empty.
UNDER THE SKIN
The front face is roughly split into thirds with the two slightly larger sides of the front face hiding the HD8752’s water tank (left) and coffee grounds drawer (right). The water tank holds up to 1.5 Litres of water and the coffee grounds drawer is good for around 10 coffees before it needs emptying.
Both the water tank and the coffee grounds drawers slide out with relatively little effort, although we found that even in the most out of the way position, the cappuccinatore does receive a slight knock from the water tank as it is removed.
When the coffee grounds drawer is removed, the otherwise stealthy service door becomes accessible which reveals the heart of the Intelia, including its removable brewing unit. Extending down the whole right face, the service door provides ample access to carry out maintenance.
The brewing unit is easy to remove and Philips Saeco have thankfully included a graphic reminder of both the removal and insertion process on the inside of the service door. This graphic also includes a handy reference to the machine’s recommended maintenance procedures and intervals.
Beneath the brewing unit is another small coffee residue drawer which is easily removed along with the brewing unit. Like the water and coffee grounds drawer, the brewing unit felt sturdy, and allowed us to handle it without any real fear of damaging it.
During our initial inspection of the machine, we found some fine coffee dust within the unit. As the included paperwork indicated, this is normal as the Intelia machines are tested prior to leaving the factory.
After rinsing out the water tank and filling it with tap water, we poured some premium Victoria Coffee beans into the hopper. The grinder can be adjusted from fine to coarse via a small knob located in the hopper. Using the tool located on the handle of the included pre-ground coffee scoop, we adjusted the grinder by pressing down the knob gently and giving it a light turn. We actually did this while the grinder was not in operation, which according to the instruction booklet is a definite no-no – Oops.
When we turned on the Intelia for the first time, she came to life with an ominous yellowy/orange hue on its LCD display, followed by some groans and whirs not unlike those of an inkjet printer cleaning its print heads.
After pressing the memo button (as instructed on screen) the machine went into a first use cleaning cycle. The cleaning cycle consisted of spurting hot water through the cappuccinatore and then through the dispensing spout. As recommended, we then ran through the manual rinsing cycle a few times. The whole process took around fifteen minutes.
After this process completed, the screen went an a-okay green colour and we were ready to start caffeinating.
With some excitement, we carefully placed a small espresso cup under the dispensing spout and pressed the espresso button located at the top left of the button panel. After the now familiar groaning and whirring, the dispensing spout began producing a cup of.. light brown water.
Undettered, and having learnt from our previous experience, we grabbed a new cup and tried again. The Intelia again went into its inkjet printer routine as it did before but this time what emerged was a cup of what looked like a proper black base, crema topped espresso.
If only all gadgets produced a nice warm cup of coffee upon successful setup!
DAY TO DAY
Since our first use, we have had the Intelia operating for over three weeks, producing up to a fairly sedate five/six cups a day. During this time the machine has operated smoothly and without any real issues.
Making drinks was a breeze and after the first few days, everyone who used the machine agreed that it was both easy to use, quick to brew and most importantly, produced a decent coffee.
From standby, the Intelia HD8752 took approximately 40 seconds to prepare itself for user input (including the automated cleaning cycle). Once ready, the machine required a further 40 seconds to pour an espresso, which incidentally was somewhat quicker than the Exprelia we reviewed earlier.
To make a quasi-cappuccino, the process required a few extra steps but wasn’t overly taxing. Once the Intelia brew an espresso into a large cup, the cappuccinatore did the rest. After placing the suction tube into a jug filled with two thirds of a cup of milk, the on screen menu is used to initiate the frothing process.
The whole undertaking took about 55 seconds to fill a 380ml cup. While this isn’t a traditional one third espresso, one third milk and one third froth cappuccino, the resulting drink did taste nice and the froth was warm and substantially foamy.
We also used the Intelia to dispense hot water for teas and found the temperature to be more than adequate for most applications.
When the machine was unable to brew coffee – the water tank or hopper being empty or the excess coffee ground drawer being full – the Intelia’s LCD display turned red and provided an appropriate graphic alert. Resolving these alerts was uneventful and automatically rewarded with the return of the display’s happy green I’m ready to make a coffee tinge.
Beyond that, regular maintenance was fairly straight forward. The recommendations – which we generally adhered to – were to clean the cappuccinatore daily, rinse the brewing mechanism weekly and at the end of the month wash and apply grease to the brewing mechanism.
The manual also recommends cleaning of the cappuccinatore using the Saeco Milk Circuit Cleaner which we are yet to use as it is not included in the retail package. Similarly, the manual also recommends cleaning the brewing mechanism with a coffee oil remover which is also not included with the Intelia.
The Intelia should be descaled on a monthly basis to maintain proper operation. Considering descaling is required to maintain the Intelia’s warranty, we would’ve liked to see at least this solution included in the package.
On average, we found we needed to empty the drip tray fairly infrequently and the coffee grounds drawer after between 5 and 10 brews – depending mainly on how the coffee cakes rested in the drawer. While the manual recommends emptying both the drip tray and coffee grounds drawer daily – along with cleaning the water tank every day – the Intelia will let you know when it actually needs to be done.
While we didn’t do much testing with pre-ground coffee, it brewed fine – once we got the grounds into the chute. In a design oversight, it turns out that the scoop included with Intelia was quite big when compared to the machine’s actual pre-ground coffee chute. Despite this, the pre-ground coffee was brewed as well as could be expected but with a hopper filled with fresh beans – and a scoop clumsily too big for the task – we’re not sure why anybody would bother. Yes, yes.. we know about decaffeinated coffee… but no.
The Intelia’s is able to adjust the strength of the espresso (three strength settings are available from the on screen menu) allowing individual drinkers to quickly and easily adjust the brew to their own taste. Beyond this, the two left buttons could be programmed to store specific drinks in memory, simplifying this process further in household settings.
In our time with the Intelia, we found both the medium strength and medium temperature settings to be optimal. At this temperature, the hot water dispensed was hot enough to scald and the espressos – the main drink of choice here at DigitalReviews – were at an ideal drinking temperature. Similarly, the medium strength brew was our strength of choice.
So how does it compare to its more expensive brethren? With the top of the line Exprelia EVO HD8857/03 still on our review bench, we did some blind espresso testing with interesting results.
When using similar brewing and temperature settings, most people canvassed could not tell the brews apart. In fact, when taking into account some of the Exprelia EVO’s quirks, we think the Intelia HD8752’s significantly reduced price makes it a great proposition – if you don’t need the features a milk carafe brings, of course.
Generally speaking, the quality of the coffee brewed from the Intelia was excellent and while the beans are critical (both in freshness and in quality) we found no issue with the quality of drinks produced.
On brew quality, note that while we like our coffee, we aren’t part of the coffee snob set and our comments on taste are akin to the average joe coffee drinker: We like our coffee but we certainly don’t obsess over it. Having said this, for what it’s worth, we feel the Intelia makes a pretty good cup of joe.
Throughout testing, we had no major issues with the operation of the machine and the only two gripes worth mentioning was the minimal milk splatter from the cappuccinatore and the machine’s failure to plan ahead when brewing two espressos – Pressing the espresso button twice has the HD8752 brew enough coffee for two espressos, essentially running through the single espresso cycle twice. Unfortunately, if there is enough water in the machine for one cycle but not two, the Intelia will stop half way through the process and prompt the user to refill the water tank. Thankfully, once the tank is refilled, the machine quickly resumes operation automatically but it would be nice if the machine could ensure there is enough water to complete both cycles before it starts brewing.
Finally, if you are considering purchasing an Intelia HD8752/23, the service door swing should be taken into consideration. Unlike the front opening Exprelia series, the Intelia’s (right) side service door may reduce placement choices within your kitchen.
WHAT ABOUT THE CAPSULE OPTION?
The automatic coffee machine segment is a broad one, with capsule machines creeping up in price and automatic espresso machines like the Intelia becoming ever more affordable.
While the most expensive capsule machines we have seen advertised have tipped the scale at $700AU, there are machines on the market for well under $100. Even supermarkets are selling them!
Despite the (initial) cost benefits, our limited experience with capsule machines has been rather hit and miss. While the right capsule machine, coupled with the right capsule can create a decent coffee, we are yet to experience a beverage from a capsule machine that tastes as good as those brewed by the Intelia HD8752/23 or any bean machine really.
Stepping up to an automatic expresso machine not only means better coffee, it means having the ability to choose your own blend of beans and adjust the strength of your brew. And with a built in cappuccinatore like the Intelia, it means being able to create almost any warm milk beverage to boot.
• Espresso technology: Saeco adapting system, Aroma-system: pre-brewing
Ease of Use
• Cleaning and maintenance: Automatic coffee circuit rinse, Descaling cycle
• Usage: Adjustable coffee dispenser, Cup holding surface, Rapid steam, Removable brewing group, Normal / long espresso option
• Energy saving: Automatic stand-by
• Power: 1850 W
• Pump Pressure: 15 bar
Weight and Dimensions
• Product dimensions (L x D x H): 256x340x440 mm • Weight: 8 kg
• Coffee bean capacity: 300 gr
• Dump box capacity: 10 servings
• Hot water / Steam Nozzle
• Simultaneous brewing
• Brita Filter compatible: Optionable, Yes
• Colour: Stainless Steel/Black
• Materials and finishing: Stainless Steel/Plastic
• Boiler material: Inox
• Water tank capacity: 1.5L
Overall, we were very impressed by the Intelia HD8752/23 – It produced espressos on par with the top of the line Exprelia EVO and its general build and design was solid. The maintenance routine wasn’t too intrusive, although the omission of fluids necessary to maintain the machine are an oversight Philips Saeco would do well to address.
The coffee produced from the machine was excellent and its operation was as simple as pressing a button in most cases or at its most complicated, navigating a few on screen menus with two or three button presses.
While we wholly recommend the Intelia HD8752/23, we implore Philips Saeco to adopt a less confusing model designation as “Intelia HD8752/23” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. The current system can make identifying the machine’s placement within the line’s hierachy confusing: Keep It Simple Stupid.
As we have mentioned previously, we are not coffee aristocrats but we do appreciate a decent coffee and with decent beans, the Intelia more than met our expectations.
At a recommended retail price of $999AU, some may suggest that the cheaper capsule machines are a better choice and for some they may be. However, if you like a genuinely good cup of coffee and you’re interested in making other delicious warm milk beverages, the HD8752 should definitely be on your radar.
The Intelia HD8752/23 is available now from major retailers. For more information, including where to buy, please visit the Philips Saeco website.