Top critical review
80 people found this helpful
A review in context
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.
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.
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.