“ Brand: Saeco Gaggia Lavazza / Water Tank: 0.9 Litre / Hot water function for tea / Steam arm for frothing milk / Capable of making espressos, lattes and cappuccinos. „
There are a lot of reviews written about this machine, and generally they are all very positive. I want to add one important update for anyone considering buying it: Lavazza now produce a bigger range of different pods for A Modo Mio (not just the four mentioned in early reviews).
I was a dedicated manual espresso machine user for many years. I also had a lot of experience of Nespresso machines, and was not impressed with the taste of nespresso coffee, so I thought I would never buy a pod machine. But I was blown away by the taste of the sample espresso that the sales guy in John Lewis gave me. Having bought the machine, and 7 different types of pods from the Lavazza website, i doubt I will ever go back to my manual espresso maker. The A Modo Mio coffee is simply as good as any I have had, even in some expensive coffee shops.
The machine is what you'd expect for the money: fairly cheap construction and a little fiddly to clean. I don't use the milk frother, but do use it to dispense hot water for Americano coffee and it runs too cool too quickly. Also Saeco built in a little 'joke' with the steam button: you must press it until its light (obscured by your finger..) comes on - d'oh! But for me the most important thing is the quality and taste of the coffee. The crema is perfect every time, and the flavour and variety of all the different pods is just stunning. If you like the 'hit' of real Italian coffee, try the newer pods that include Robusta in the blend. I don't think even the hardest-to-please coffee addict will be disappointed.
I adore coffee. But not just any old coffee. Neither instant granules nor filter meet my standards nowadays. It must be espresso based and I'm delighted there are so many decent coffee shops springing up on every main street. Unfortunately, the majority of them are frighteningly expensive, particularly if you happen to require more than one or two cups of coffee to keep you going through the day.
When I'm drinking coffee at home (which is rather more lately since I'm working from home), I generally drink Lavazza made in a stove top pot. This produces a nice tasting coffee and when made with frothy milk in my Bodum milk frother, I can almost replicate my favourite coffee shop beverages at a fraction of the cost. However, I still like treating myself to a Starbucks once a week because their coffee is somehow, richer and thicker with more body.
This led me to wondering about a coffee machine. I've purchased various coffee making gadgets over the years, even proper pump machines. They produce nice coffee but they're still a hassle, with having to measure out the coffee, placing it in the scoop, filling up the water tank and cleaning out the dregs afterwards etc. However, I had been toying with the idea of purchasing one of those pod machines. I'd heard and read about a few different makes that have been entering the market recently but wasn't sure about any of them as they all had to use a particular brand of coffee, none of which I liked. For instance the Tassimo from Kenco and the Nespresso which uses Nescafe.
Someone up there must have been tuning into my thoughts because last month I received an email offering me £20 cashback if I purchased one of their Lavazza A Modo Mio pod coffee machines. I couldn't believe it. I'd never even heard of this pod machine and was instantly intrigued. I read a bit about it on the website and noticed it was a best buy recommended by none other than Which? Magazine. In a moment of madness/weakness I splashed out and ordered one online. It's one of the best gadget buying decisions I've made in a long time.
~~~Cost and Specifications~~~
The A Modo Mio comes in two versions: the Extra and the Premium. The Extra costs £119 and the Premium £159. Both machines look the same except the Extra comes in black and the Premium is red. Regarding functions, the only difference as far as I could see is the Premium's ability to programme the amount of coffee in the cup and an electronic temperature control. I ordered the Extra machine for £119 so this review pertains only to the Extra.
The dimensions of the Extra machine are 12" (305mm) height x 9.25" (235mm) width x 13" (330mm) depth. It has a 47" (1.2m) power cord along with a removable water tank, stainless steel boiler and a thermal fuse. The total weight of the machine is 11lbs (5kg). It has a 15-bar pressure pump, essential for a decent cup of espresso.
~~~Ordering and Delivery~~~
I ordered this online from http://storeuk.lavazza.com and was given a next day delivery date with a delivery charge of £6.50.
My coffee machine duly arrived the next day. I must admit I was somewhat taken aback by the size of the box that arrived. I'd not actually read the technical details such as its dimensions and weight and judging by its picture online, thought it was going to be something around the size my kettle jug. This machine was going to take up quite a bit more precious worktop space than I'd imagined. Still, I couldn't wait to try it out.
Also packed with the coffee machine came four boxes of coffee pods, one of each of the four flavours. This is very useful as it gives you a chance to see which coffees you like best for future ordering.
~~~Coffee Types and Where to Buy~~~
The A Modo Mio only uses Lavazza coffee pods so you're restricted in that way. However, if you like Lavazza coffee, as I do, this shouldn't be a problem.
There are four types of espresso coffee pods: Appassionatamente (dark, velvety and full-bodied), Deliziosamente (well rounded, delicate, and smooth, Dolcemente (well rounded, smooth and creamy, Cremosamente Dek (decaffeinated, smooth and aromatic).
Each box of coffee contains 16 pods and costs £3.59. Online they can be purchased from the Lavazza store (http://storeuk.lavazza.com), Ocado, some Tesco Extra stores as well as instore at Waitrose. The capsules cost exactly the same at the Lavazza store as they do in Waitrose.
~~~Using the Machine~~~
The machine comes with an instruction manual. I had a good read of this to familiarise myself with the different bits and pieces of the machine. A diagram clearly demonstrates the different machine parts. This includes the water tank and cover, pod compartment, loading lever (not a carrying handle which I mistakenly thought at first), steam/hot water knob, drip tray, dreg drawer, on/off switch, steam/hot water wand and lifting handle. Next come the instructions for the initial preparation of the machine followed by how to make your coffee and how to dispense water and steam.
After plugging in the machine for the first time, you need to prime it. This is something you should become familiar with as you need to do this from time to time. It basically involves filling up the water tank at the back of the machine, switching it on and turning the steam knob to allow the excess water out of the steam wand.
So, onto the machine. As mentioned before, at the back of the machine is the clear, plastic water tank. This has a removable lid which just slots on top. You can either take the lid off and pour in your water (preferably filtered to minimise limescale), or the entire water tank can be lifted up to be emptied and/or filled up to a maximum level of 1,000 mls. The tank simply slides back onto the grooves at the back of the tank. Also at the back is the on/off switch.
On top of the machine at the front are three buttons: brew button, power light and steam button. When switched on, the power light turns green and remains green until you switch it off. After around 60 seconds, yes, 60 seconds, the brew button turns red. This means the machine is ready for making your coffee.
This is the bit I love. It's so easy. On top of the machine is a small flip up lid into which you pop one of your favourite coffee pods. It disappears inside the dark depths of the machine and you close the lid. Next you take hold of the loading lever (as shown in the picture) which is located on top and pull it forward until it clicks. What it's doing here is perforating small holes into the coffee pod through which the boiling water will be forced. Next, you press the brew button.
You need to place your cup onto the drip tray. I generally use a shot glass which provides a useful guide to the amount of coffee I want. The drip tray can be adjusted to accommodate a taller cup/glass or instead you can hold your cup underneath the dispensing spout on an angle. Once you've pressed the brew button, the machine begins humming then starts dispensing your coffee within around 5 seconds. You must press the brew button again when you have as much coffee as you want. The Premium model allows you to predetermine how much coffee comes out.
You can tell straight away that this is going to be a good cup of coffee. Not only does the smell directly target those caffeine starved senses, the coffee itself looks rich and it leaves a gorgeous thick crema on top (something my stove top pot cannot provide). It also comes out very hot.
Once you have your coffee, you pull the loading lever back again and hear the coffee pod drop down into the dreg drawer. This can be found underneath the drip tray and simply slides out. The tray holds around 10 pods and you need to remember to empty it from time to time. It also fills up with excess water which should be emptied away at the same time as disposing of the used pods.
This function isn't particularly good. If you wish to heat and froth your milk, the instructions recommend cold milk in a steel jug. Well, I don't have the steel jug but have followed all the other directions by the book.
You must hold down the steam button until it turns green. This can take a while, up to a minute. When it steam button becomes solidly green, it's ready. You turn the steam knob to let out any residue water from the steam wand and once it's turned to steam, it's ready for your milk. You are supposed to put your milk jug half a cm below the surface to create perfect frothy milk. In reality, this hasn't worked for me.
I've wasted a few jugs of milk using this function. The first time the steam ran out before the milk was barely warm with no froth on top. The second time it took so much steam to heat the milk to the required temperature that the milk was watered down so much I couldn't drink it. Again, no decent froth. My final go at using the steam function I pre-heated the milk in the microwave and used the steam to create a froth. Unfortunately, although it does create a small amount of foam, it simply doesn't compare with those in the coffee shops or my Bodum milk frother.
You can also use the steam wand to dispense hot water for other hot drinks.
The drip tray and dreg drawer are all easily removed for cleaning. You slide out the tray and pull off the drip tray. Underneath is the dreg drawer with all your empty pods ready to throw away. It doesn't specify that parts can't go in a dishwasher, but it's easy enough just rinsing it under a hot tap and sliding it back in place again. The steam nozzle should be wiped immediately after use with a soft cloth.
I absolutely love this machine. The coffee produced is far superior to any other machine I've used at home and definitely on a par with those purchased from coffee shop chain. In this machine I feel I have my very own coffee shop with each cup costing around 25p.
The main problem I have now is that it's so quick and easy to make a coffee, that I'm drinking far more now. Because of this, I've purposely bought some decaffeinated pods to alternate with the caffeine pods, just so I don't end up buzzing all night. My husband, a fellow coffee addict, loves this machine too, although he had his doubts at first and said he would never have considered buying something like this.
As well as for home use, I think this machine would be ideal for use in a workplace kitchen for example. I said as much to hubby, who spends a small fortune in the local Starbucks, Neros and Prets on coffees each day. He agreed but seems to think his colleagues are all thieving rogues who wouldn't think twice about steeling the pods!
There is a very useful problem guide in the instruction manual which includes a list of common problems and their solutions. The only problem I've encountered so far is the coffee not dispensing after I've pressed the button. There have been a few different reasons for this, but it's mainly to do with becoming familiar with the machine.
Once the coffee didn't come out because I hadn't pulled the loading lever forward enough. Easily fixed. The other times I've needed to prime the machine which means just opening the steam nozzle and letting out the excess water. Once, for some reason, the pod just didn't seem to work despite the fact it had holes punched in it. I took it out and popped it back in and it then worked.
The flow of coffee can vary as well. Mostly, it comes out as a steady trickle. Occasionally it's come pouring out extremely quickly and others it's gone drip drip drip. It's all a mystery but the end result is always a gorgeous cup of coffee.
The only negative aspects are that you are tied to buying the Lavazza pods and the fact that they aren't available everywhere. However, I've had no problems in purchasing more coffee. I've bulk ordered online and they arrived a couple of days later. I've also purchased the odd box from Waitrose.
For further information see http://storeuk.lavazza.com/product-view.ep?pID=104100.
Afterthought: Two weeks after purchasing my machine I received my £20 cashback cheque and another 2 weeks after that I received a free set of 4 Lavazza glass espresso cups and saucers.