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on 19 July 2005
I personally find context can help a review. My context is that while I love coffee, obviously, I drink very little, typically 1 or 2 a day, and usually americanos at that. However I travel in europe a lot and was increasingly finding myself drawn by the very good coffee I regularly experienced.
After much soul-searching, I opted for the Cafe Retro, aided by a Father's Day voucher. As an engineer, I loved the design, something missing in most of those I looked at, and the price seemed very competitive.
Having had it a few weeks here are my first impressions:
Size: fits well into the kitchen without being overwhelming.
Manufacture & design: Has a nice feel. The lights look well but if your kitchen catches the sun they are useless as you can't tell whether they are on or off. And the main power on light is on the opposite side (the off side) of the switch when the machine is actually switched on, a stupid mistake. The water reservoir seems small at 0.75 ltr but since this mahine is for espressos, it's quite sufficient. The steam attachment is fine, no quibbles there.
The machine seems to heat up quite quickly, in fact quickly enough that the cup-warmer doesn't really, warm cups that is, and that's just an espresso cup. I recommend some boiling water in the cup beforehand. Warming the filter holder (as the manual says) before putting in coffee is also essential, otherwise the coffee will be too cool.
Using a finely ground filter coffee is essential. I already had a very good Moulinex blade grinder but it is just not sufficient for grinding fine enough for this, so if you intend grinding your own, then factor in the cost of a burr grinder, hard to find and around stg£50 or £60.
Coffee:
The key factor, the coffee it makes, is however very good. I had a double espresso this morning (just arabica rather than robusa mind you) and I was zinging afterwards.
I used it to make a mocha last night with the steamer and it tasted far better than my microwave attempts.
Concerns:
That "lights" issue is not as small a matter as it seems. Without a good Power indicator it's too easy to leave the Kenwood switched on, something I've already done too many times. With obvious implications for longevity/reliability. I will try to remember to update this review in 6 months since reliability is vital for any electronic product.
My biggest concern is the thermostat. On the coffee setting, which should hold the tmeperature around 90/100 deg C, it regularly overshoots, up to 120 deg C. The longer you leave it switched on before making that coffee (eg. if the postman calls etc) the hotter it gets and the harder it seems to struggle to maintain a consistent temperature (I'm talking about 10/15 mins here). Based on the first two weeks, I am seriously nervous about the implications for ongoing reliabilty, which is why I'm dropping the rating to 3 stars.
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on 23 February 2006
I've had this coffee machine for a couple of years now, and I'm writing this review because others here, in their new-purchase glee, have overlooked some glaring design faults. Let me start by saying, however, that I think it's great-looking and decently priced. The coffee it makes, likewise, is not bad.
Overall, though, it's a pretty irritating thing to own. For one thing it spews, dribbles and spits for a good few minutes after you've turned it off. Most of it goes into the drip tray, where it goes mouldy very quickly, but a lot simply stands on the upper tray where you want to put a clean cup for the next serving.
Its other major fault is the design of the little pot which you load with fresh coffee. It comprises two bowls, one which fits snugly inside the other. They interlock a bit like a bayonet bulb and light fitting. Unlike a vastly cheaper machine I used to have (which didn't drip either), after serving this one doesn't eject a pellet-like disc of dryish coffee grounds at the push of a button. Instead you're left with a bowl of dark watery slop. Unless you're anal enough to take a teaspoon to it and empty this mess out bit by bit, chances are you'll turn the thing upside down and belt it on the side of your bin. When you do you'll find that three times out of ten the bayonet fitting will come loose and the inner bowl will fly off into the leftovers from last night's curry. This fault needs urgent attention.
Oh, and the cup-warmer? It's purely cosmetic: it never gets warm.
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on 22 December 2004
Ok, I admit it - I fell in love with the Kenwood Cafe Retro as soon as I saw it. The curves, the flick switches, the cute little analogue temperature gauge; they all made me think how great this machine would look in my kitchen. But of course, looks aren't everything and a coffee machine that doesn't make great coffee really is rather pointless, no matter how nice it looks (unless, I guess, you're allergic to coffee and you want it simply as an ornament!).
Thankfully, the Cafe Retro squarely delivers on the taste front! Wonderfully smooth espresso that is extremely authentic, even when using supermarket pre-ground coffee. My next step will be to get myself a burr grinder to see just how much better it can get!
It heats up extremely quickly from a cold start and also has a milk frother which can be used to make cappuccinos. All in all, I can have no complaints about the ES547 - it looks great and, most importantly, makes great tasting coffee. I'd definitely recommend it; it delivers better coffee than many machines that are more than twice the price...
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on 24 July 2007
This is by far the worst coffee maker I have ever owned. It continually gets clogged up and doesn't distribute the coffee evenly into the cups,it also takes about another 5 minutes after the coffee is made to heat and froth the milk, by which time you can end up having a cold cup of coffee.
The coffee that it does make is passable, but not great.
This machine is a great design and looks good sitting in the kitchen, but that's all its good for. All in all don't waste your money.
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on 14 July 2005
Update July 2006: Seeing some of the other (not so good) reviews, I think they are being very unfair. My machine is just getting better & better with use & the coffee (provided you use a decent one; say Lavazza fine ground) is absolutely FANTASTIC, just the right amount of crema. When cleaning the machine, leave it for a while & the coffee dries out so you can remove it with a teaspoon - simple. The machine looks fantastic and is really functional. My daughter's Italian boyfriend who runs a local restaurant also thinks it's fantastic [great accolade indeed] & has even said it's better than the professional one he uses in the restaurant! The tips he gave me to use it are: Keep the 'arm' [implement you put the actual coffee in] in place when you are heating up the machine. Once it reaches temperature, the light goes off, then place your finely ground beans into the arm. Two fairly heaped measures. Press down the coffee twice only with the tool supplied. If you put too much coffee into the arm it will spill over and won't work so well. When you want frothy milk, run the steamer first to get rid of any water, until it is only steam coming out. From time to time, he suggested I clean the rim of the machine where the arm fits into with a toothbrush as coffee beans will collect there. This may all sound very fussy but I promise you it works and once you get into the swing of it, it's very fast and easy to do PLUS it makes fantastic coffee. Even hot chocolate for my daughter [not a coffee drinker]. I hope this review helps some of you to decide.
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on 11 December 2007
I got one of these for the inlaws and all i can say, compared to mine (woolworths own brand Elevation 15 bar pump machine at £30 and sadly no longer stocked), is:

1)Coffee is OK and it is all about fresh roast and grind (the better quality + dark fine ground will give excellent results).

2)The water jug empties very quickly and can be a nuisance to refill if you are making a few cups.

3) The steamer is rubbish compared to mine and you end up with a little bit of froth and boiling (scalding) milk. I also have to use a lot more milk to fill the cup (I could get milk to the top of a cup with about 1cm milk with mine and it was creamy).

4) agree with a bit spitty and drippy.

For a machine costing £110+ is should way out-perform a £30 machine. Style over substance.
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on 22 August 2005
I have always wanted one of these machines as they look great. As Amazon had a very good offer on, now was the time to buy one.
When it arrived it looked better than the pics and the quality seemed ok, that is until I started using it.
The coffee holder was too big, most machines have two different size holders, this only had one so if using pods they swim in it.
The water holder was awkward to use as it is around the back, you have to put in a tube/pipe when fitting the water holder back in.
When taking out the water holder there is a pipe that drips and the water seeps onto the base and behind the stainless steel, after a few days it started to rust, front and back.
Mine has been returned because of this, on instruction of Kenwood CS.
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on 24 June 2006
....and I still think it's great. Most of the criticisms in the other reviews are true - the cup warmer dosen't, the machine does drip for ages after it's made coffee, and trying to tip the used grounds in to a bin is not going to happen (just wash them down the sink).

But still, it makes great espresso, quickly and reliably, and it looks great. Just keep some kitchen roll handy.
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on 27 April 2017
Very good machine but my frothing tube now seems to be blocked. Does anyone know the best way to clear it?
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on 1 August 2006
We owned this machine for about a year and a half before we managed to kill it. For the price, it makes a good espresso very quickly with a very good crema - we bought preground coffee for espressos which always worked very well - but is not as ideal as freshly ground obviously. The coffee warmer is a bit of a joke (does NOT warm anything). The temperature dials are fun. Make sure you warm the filter holder first before making coffee as this will help ensure a hotter coffee. The water holder is a bit fiddly as it is inserted from the right hand side and you need to make sure the tubes are properly sitting in it after refilling - it does not hold a huge amount. The frother works very well. We did have problems with the machine after a few months - leaking out of the filter holder and not producing much coffee - also the holder would continue to drip coffee into the cups while waiting for the machine to heat up to steam for frothing - and quite often the cups would get filled before you had a chance to top with milk! On the whole, it is a good first machine with a fun look. We have now upgraded to a Gaggia Classic (a lot more money but very well built and produces great hot coffee - funnily enough the crema is not as thick as the Kenwood's!)
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