Tuesday, March 18, 2008

About the Z5, a Semi Review

I talked about how much I enjoy the Jura Capresso Z5 a number of posts ago. There are a few things I want to add to that article to give you a better idea of the machine.

It is a quirky machine, to be sure. I mentioned how you had to play with the steam nozzle to get the milk just the way you want it; sometimes requiring fiddling mid-steam. The important reason for the fiddling is maintenance of milk temperature. Especially if you use fresh-from-fridge cold milk, the steamed milk can come out as bad as 100 degrees instead of the requisite 150. The steam system also requires a trick that most standard machines requires: purging the line. Before steaming your milk, you have to blast steam through the nozzle for a few seconds to clear out any moisture. Only then will you get ideal foam. Obviously, they really couldn't engineer their way around this, but it further pulls the machine away from true, push-button operation.

The grinder is something about which I didn't rave nearly enough. Not only does it produce an excellent grind, it's quiet as all get-out. You could run it in a house full of insomniac crack addicts and likely not wake a single one.

The espresso can be a bit weak, a result of a puck size that just doesn't cut the mustard. This machine will produce some of the best, strongest coffee on Earth, but the espresso comes up short if you don't set it right. As with most of the other problems with the machine, simply setting it in a particular way sufficiently resolves it.

The puck size means you can't make real doubles. That tiny puck also makes the "strength" feature ostensibly useless. The strength is controlled by the amount of grind and an even smaller puck will just result in crap espresso. I'm able to squeeze out 2oz from a "very strong" setting, but anymore starts visibly watering down the shot. It's easy enough to just press the Double button and produce a full 3oz, which is a good amount for a mocha or latte, but to get the best espresso requires two, very strong shots to be pulled. Playing with these settings consistently dispenses some of the best espresso I've had.

The final problem is how the machine says it's "ready" when it certainly, obviously, terribly isn't. The machine heats up for about two minutes after being turned on, asks you to press the rinse button, and then says "coffee ready." This is a lie. If you immediately pull a shot, it's going to be too cold and taste off. The best idea is to run another rinse cycle to really clean out the pipes, then let it sit for another two or three minutes. That lack of temperature control will ruin cups of tea if you dispense water immediately as its ready.

Tea generally requires water temperatures in excess of 180 degrees for all kinds of tea, even white. A first cup of water will barely crack 170, and after the tea has steeped for three-to-five minutes, the temperature has gone down five degrees, further rendering the water unsuitable. For black teas, which are ideal with water just off boil, even 180 degrees is too low. After the machine has had a chance to really heat up I start seeing temperatures consistently above 180, but it takes the machine a bit.

Again, I'm very satisfied, even with the quirks.

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