Smeg ECF01 Espresso Machine review: 5 reasons this coffee machine is a great coffee shop substitute
HOME COMFORTS: The things making us happy while stuck at home...
Home Comforts is a series of articles focusing on the things that are helping the ShortList team get through lockdown. Whether it's a gadget, movie, song or book we'll showcase great things that are making us happy - and hopefully they will make you happy too...
It’s surprising the little things you miss while in lockdown. For me, it’s getting my morning coffee. And my mid-morning coffee. And the afternoon one that perks me up till the commute home.
It’s not just the coffee fix I miss but the time to breathe, think and figure out new ways to make ShortList, well, better.
Like many of you, I usually work in an office so the walk to my regular coffee shop - the fantastic Catalyst in Holborn, London (or the nearest Pret when I just want something quick) - the waiting for the coffee and the sheer joy of drinking it is all part of the routine.
That’s gone now, given we are all stuck inside sticking the middle finger up to Covid-19. The walk to the kettle is seconds, not minutes and the barista isn’t nearly as chatty. In fact, he’s a little grumpy and - the last time I looked in the mirror - he has a hilarious birds’ nest of lockdown hair.
It’s all a bit meh.
That was until I got a coffee machine in for review. We know our coffee at ShortList so there was a legitimate reason I was allowed to unwrap the Smeg ECF01 Espresso Machine, as I had to get some testing in… but given I was missing my coffee fix, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
When it comes to coffee machines, we have tested loads. We recommend you also check out our best coffee machine round-up which is packed with great coffee makers. There’s also our best pod coffee machine guide, our best Nespresso machine guide and if you are looking for the best coffee grinders, best coffee and gifts for coffee lovers, we have lists on those, too.
While this review is about the Smeg ECF01, it’s also about the simple pleasure of making good coffee.
Here are 5 things to know about the Smeg ECF01 Espresso Machine and why making coffee is, right now, fantastic therapy.
1. Smeg’s retro styling will perk up the drabbest of kitchens
The Smeg ECF01 Espresso Machine is a lovely looking coffee maker. Its retro looks stand out, but not too much, given your kitchen the feel of a ’50s diner. Its footprint is surprisingly compact, too - even if your workspace isn’t the biggest this should fit just fine.
We’ve been testing the cream version but it’s also available in black, red, pink, green and blue - each have the chrome Smeg lettering and the curved top. Given it's glossy, you will have to clean it a little more than your other appliances, though.
2. There are a number of neat touches
While at first glance, the Smeg ECF01 looks like it offers the same features as many a coffee machine, there are some nice touches. The first is the 1 litre water reservoir. This is a decent size and given this is an espresso machine (although it can also froth your milk), that’s a helluva lot of espressos you can get through without refilling. The reservoir comes completely out of the machine, too, so you can take it to the sink and not have to find a jug to fill it up.
The drip tray is cleverer than it looks, too. When it fills up, a red plastic notch appears. Once this pops up, you know it is time to clean the thing. The drip tray is also removable. It does mean that when removed there is nothing there to catch any spillage but take it out and you can place a larger cup under the portafilter.
There’s a drink heater on the top of the machine as well, which doesn’t get too hot but is good if you are doing a number of drinks.
3. It’s (fairly) easy to use
This is a no-nonsense coffee machine, with just three buttons on the top: a single espresso, double espresso and steam for the milk frother. From turning on, it takes around a minute to warm up then it’s a simple press of the button for whatever espresso you want.
You can double tap, too, to make the coffee that little bit longer. Our drink of choice at the moment is a Lungo, which needs the machine to put through a small espresso then two other blasts to get more out of the ground coffee - this machine does that with ease.
The only niggle we have here is that when you first press a button to activate the machine, the flashing lights aren’t easy to see in daylight - we had to keep putting our hand around them to shield them from the light to see if they had stopped flashing so we could have our coffee.
4. It has some hidden features
While it my look like there are only three buttons to use, the machine can also be modified. You can change the amount of water used for an espresso, the heat of the coffee and allow for the hardness of the water. You will need the manual to do this as there is a lot of button bashing involved but it’s nice to see that tweaks can be made to help you get the perfect cuppa.
5. The milk frother is great, when it works
There is a milk frother attached to this machine (no grinder, though - although Smeg does have a separate one for sale) and when we got on with it, it was really nice to use. It’s powerful enough to heat up the milk quickly and once applied to the edge of the jug, it froths the milk well.
There were a few times when it didn’t generate enough steam, though. This may have been our own impatient fault, but a better indicator is needed to make sure that the frother is 100% ready.
Making coffee is therapeutic. I have been crafting my froth, adjusting the temperature of the coffee, all in the pursuit of the perfect cup of Joe. The Smeg ECF01 has been a great machine to help me to do this.
But, being in lockdown, this hasn’t just been an average coffee machine test but a bit of an escape from the situation we all find ourselves in right now.
I might still be missing coffee shops, the staff, the act of getting coffee but having a machine at home has really helped. It has helped with the coffee craving but also helped me to understand the care that goes into making great coffee - and I can’t wait for the professionals to start serving it to me once again.
The Smeg ECF01 Espresso Machine is available now for £319.