Ever since switching to an espresso machine in my home, I can’t go back to a basic coffee machine again. With several cups of coffee and coffee-related drinks poured daily in my home (especially since I work from home), having a fabulous cup to start off your day or top off your lunch can make a huge difference. Smeg is a brand that combines two of my favourite things for the kitchen: fabulous functionality and elegant, retro design. Add to that making coffee drinks and the Smeg manual espresso machine with a built-in frother and coffee grinder was a product I was more than happy to put through its paces.
What can the Smeg manual espresso machine do?
The Smeg manual espresso machine makes espresso for enjoying on its own or adding to espresso-related drinks, including everything from a latte to a cappuccino. It comes with a coffee grinder so you can enjoy a cup of java from fresh, roasted coffee beans, adjusting the grind level to your personal liking. It also comes with a milk frother and steamer, making it the perfect option to make all types of coffee drinks.
You can choose from single or double and it comes with a 1.5-litre water tank so you can brew several cups before it needs to be refilled, ideal for busy families. Adjust the coffee hardness and grind size and enjoy a 20-bar pump pressure for quick and efficient dispensing. The professional 58mm filter can hold enough grounds for up to 10 cups of coffee.
The double thermoblock heating system provides consistent, even heating. Conveniently use the built-in manual milk frother to froth and heat your milk or milk alternative, just like baristas do in your local café.
Made of die-cast stainless steel that’s both durable and easy to clean, not to mention looks stunning, the machine has a removable drip tray if you need to accommodate larger cups and a water level indicator that will remind you when water is running low.
Using the Smeg manual espresso machine
I’ll admit I was a little overwhelmed once I unboxed the Smeg manual espresso machine. This has nothing to do with the machine itself but rather my own lack of knowledge. While I have used espresso machines before and I have watched baristas in local cafes use them countless times, I have never used one in my own home. If you’re in the same boat, don’t worry. There is a learning curve, and you might even find the manual process confusing with all the parts, numbers, and steps. But if you set aside an hour to familiarize yourself with the machine, you’ll be whipping up cappuccinos in no time.
I followed the instructions to get started by filling the water tank, adding beans to the container and clicking it into place, putting the filter holder in place, and plugging in the unit then turning it on using the side-mounted power switch. (I should note that I washed all necessary parts before beginning). I placed a cup under the dispensing unit and pressed the coffee button five times in succession to release water. I then dispensed water into the stainless steel milk jug from the steam/hot water wand, steamed it, and the process was complete. Now, it was time to actually make coffee.
Turn the coffee bean container to the desired grind level, position the filter holder under the filter holder support, and press the coffee button. Your beans will instantly grind. Remove the filter holder and use the tamper to press the grounds down flat. If you want to use pre-ground coffee, you can simply add the grinds to the filter holder, tamp them down, and skip to the next step.
Secure the filter holder into the dispensing unit (you might have to wiggle it around a bit until you find the right way to lock it into place). Note that it might take a minute or two for the machine to heat up: you’ll know it’s ready and has enough water when the two lights stop flashing. Now press the coffee button on the right for a single or double cup and watch the coffee pour. Voila! You have espresso!
If you want to make a frothy milk-based drink, add milk to the milk jug, pull the frother wand out to the side and place it in the cup, then switch the dial to froth. There are two intensity levels, the first for a drink like cappuccino and the second for something like a latte. Froth for as long as you like until the milk (or milk alternative—I used oat milk) is to the desired frothiness. I found that took about 30-45 seconds to get to how I like it. Pour it over the espresso and you’re done.
A few things to note about the Smeg manual espresso machine
I love how easy the machine is to use once you get the hang of it, but the instruction manual leaves something to be desired for newbies like me. So, you’ll need patience if you’re not familiar with how the process works.
There’s no denying the Smeg machine is stunning in design. Get the right colour to match your kitchen and it will turn heads. But it is quite large so it’s best suited to larger kitchens. I’m also not keen on the positioning of the water tank at the backside of the unit. This allows the machine to fit in slightly narrower places than you might be able to fit other espresso machines that are wider. But it also makes it deeper and awkward to get at the tank.
If you have it against a wall, you need to turn the machine around to remove the water tank and reach behind to put it back in place. More likely, you can use a measuring cup or even the milk jug that comes in the set to remove the cover and pour water in that way. But it’s a design aspect that’s worth keeping in mind, especially when it comes to periodically cleaning out the water tank.
I love the hidden accessories drawer behind the drip tray which holds items like the cleaning brush and additional filters so you can use the one you prefer depending on how strong you like your coffee (pressurized is the simpler option but non-pressurized will offer more full-bodied flavour). Once you’re done, turn the filter holder upside down over a garbage can or organics bin and give a quick knock to remove the grounds, then rinse it in the sink. It’s advisable to remove the grounds and rinse it right away. I also love that the pieces, like the filter holder and tamper, have a nice weight to them.
The milk frother works wonderfully, though it’s tough to gauge how long you should run it to get not only the desired level of froth but also the right temperature. I found that sometimes even after it generated heavy froth, the milk was only lukewarm. It’s a good idea to do it for longer than you think (note that the side of the jug gets hot) and to make sure to firmly hold the jug and position in place with the wand properly positioned to avoid milk splashing everywhere. The frother is also rather loud, similar to what you might hear in a specialty café when they’re making your morning latte.
Should you buy the Smeg manual espresso machine?
Prior to unboxing this espresso maker, I was already familiar with the Smeg brand. I have used the brand’s kettles before to warm water for tea and coffee made in a French press. I know the brand makes other products as well, but a Smeg espresso machine was one product I hadn’t yet heard of and was excited to try.
Despite not being from one of the more recognizable espresso maker brands, you get a solid, customizable, manual experience with this machine. It will meet the needs of discerning coffee drinkers and it’s easy enough for a beginner to use, as long as you take the time to get familiar with it.
You’ll also get a stunning, retro machine that fits perfectly in a rustic kitchen. In fact, any time I have tried any Smeg products, they have been in higher-end hotels, AirBnbs, and cottages. That’s evidence that the brand is sought after for style as much as function: this is a machine that will impress in more ways than one.
Find the Smeg manual espresso machine at Best Buy Online.