So around a month ago I was offered the chance to try out the new fully automatic espresso machine from Philips Saeco – the Intelia, which was handy as my ever faithful Sunbeam had been playing up. I’m skeptical when it comes to automatic coffee machines, not least because I’m a control freak bus also because I just can’t see an automatic machine living up to a hand-tamped coffee.

After three weeks of using this machine daily, I now feel qualified to review it. I thought the best way was to show you the machine in a kind of how-to video of about 12 minutes. I’ve followed that up with a summary of what I like/don’t like about the Philips Saeco Intelia, skip straight to that if you’re after my final verdict.

The Philips Saeco Intelia

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YouTube

What’s to like?
The convenience – once you’ve got it all set up, it’s just a matter of pressing a couple of buttons, especially if you drink black coffee.
It cleans itself (although you still need to clean it periodically)
You can use beans or ground coffee
Everything is adjustable and programmable
It’s quiet!!
There is almost zero mess.
Usually the coffee grounds receptical is full at the same time as the water reservoir is empty
The milk frother – remove the ‘cappucinatore’ for velvety-smooth foam

What’s not to like?
The price – RRP $999
The small water tank/coffee ground receptacle – they always need to be filled/emptied (in fact, the water tank seems to need to be filled BEFORE it’s empty…)
There’s no substitute for human tamping – even at the finest grind and largest dose, the shots run a tad too fast for me*
The plastic casing feels cheap and flimsy – nespresso-esque.
The steam wand (used manually especially) makes a mess.
The drip tray is too small

Quibbling/Suggestions
It’d be super cool if you could use the internal grinder just to grind coffee (not for use in the machine).

This product is for…
Office kitchens, people who want something better than nespresso but with even less fuss, those who drink milk coffee (it doesn’t quite stand up to espressos/ristrettos), someone with more money than sense.

The Final Verdict
I was skeptical about the ability of a fully automatic machine to produce a decent coffee, however I have to admit that the Phillips Saeco Intelia has grown on me.

It gets massive points for convenience and usability- it’s very intuitive to use and quite straightforward.

However, to get a decent coffee out of it, it really needs to be properly adjusted. That said, I use it on its finest grind setting and maximum dose, and the shots just aren’t coming out as slow as I’d like.

Using freshly roasted beans gets the best result. If you can’t get them, I seriously wouldn’t bother with this machine.

Finally, like a lot of kitchen gadgets, it is priced that little bit too high. That said, I have the Sunbeam EM6910, which retails for around $700 and I would never, ever pay that – I got it at a factory outlet half price.

This is product I would never purchase for myself, but I can understand why someone who didn’t want any fuss or mess and wasn’t addicted to espressos or macchiattos would.

*(for those who don’t know – higher dose of coffee = slower shot pour and thus more concentrated shot, as does a finer grind. Coarse ground coffee will pour slower, which makes sense if you think about water running through a sieve full of rocks vs a sieve full of sand).

Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for an exciting competition on Corridor Kitchen. You’ll never (as in always) guess the prize!

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18 Responses to Review – Philips Saeco Intelia

  1. Gaby says:

    I haven’t watched the video (I’m at the office) but I dig this review format, very comprehensive. About the machine… $999? Ouch! You said it right: for “someone with more money than sense”. Also “tasted better than nespresso” doesn’t say that much IMO :)
    Gaby recently posted…Urban Food Market

  2. Agree with Gaby,$999 is a hefty price to pay. I am looking forward to watching the vid when I get home. A great, honest review.
    Anna@ The Littlest Anchovy recently posted…Are You Achin’ For Some Bacon?

  3. I like your straightforward honest review of the Saeco based on having actually used it.
    Anna @ the shady pine recently posted…Lemons – part 2

  4. Looks about the size of my dishwasher and a little pricey. But its nice to see all the pros and cons clearly listed of those considering going all the way in a bid for great coffee at home.
    Pauline@Nespresso Capsules recently posted…What Goes Into a Nespresso Capsule

  5. I’m glad I made myself a coffee before sitting down to watch your very comprehensive and honest review. Love that you say strong coffee is normal coffee! I’d never spend that much money on an automatic machine, personally, as I also prefer to tamp my own freshly ground beans when I make a cup at home.
    john@heneedsfood recently posted…Frangelico bread puddings + blackcurrants

    • Lau says:

      I think the video was abit long but I’m only just etting the hang of it. In this case, strong coffee really IS normal coffe. Any less than ’3 beans’ and the shots run crazy fast!

  6. Great, honest review. Not that I’d spend my hard earned $999 on it, but I’ve been wondering how good these fully automated machines are.
    Mary@beyondjelly recently posted…Percy the Pig @ Kimberley Hotel Chinese Restaurant, Hong Kong

  7. [...] about an area related to your product? For example, I write a lot about coffee so I was offered a coffee machine to review. This was hardly a surprising thing for me to review. Look at the sidebars. Are there any ads? Do [...]

  8. [...] on to the competition! Y’all must remember the lengthy/boring video review I did of the Philips Saeco Intelia a while back (sorry, when I think of Amy, I come over all Southern). *Ahem*. Well, the time has [...]

  9. rob says:

    I am soooo dissapointed with Philips. The Auto Milk Frothing thingo outputs the milk at around 50 degrees. Since 80% of the Cap is Milk this is no where near hot enough but philips say it is. Get real !

  10. Just to let people know I have just purchased this machine and love its convenience. It was $656 with a 20% off in store
    bought it down to $525 and then got a Philips bonus of a $75 visa card back making the machine $450 effectively.

    This is my first machine, pretty fool proof to use and easy to clean. Did have a problem with it not frothing properly, but realised it was my fault by not cleaning properly, after running water through frother for a min it’s now working good as new.

  11. Leo says:

    I bought this machine however still also use my Sylvia and Compak Touch 3 grinder on occassions. The purchase price was way less then $999. The 3 beans you see on the menu is nothing to do with the strength of the coffee. it is to do with the “aroma” as Philips say in their manual. Apparently it is a pre-infusion function to bring out the aroma.

    Looks to me the only way to increase the “strength” is the finer grind option.the quantity of coffee is 7 grams per grind regardless. Also there is a function for a 2 cup extraction not mentioned.. you just press the button twice in quick succession and it grinds tamps and extracts 2 cups in quick succession either large or small. I leave one function buttons (small cup) set for espresso size 60ml and the other (large cup)for larger coffee bases.

    I roast my own beans so always have fresh available and roasted to my liking.

    I have a preference for flat whites in the morning and find it a very easy and satisfactory alternative to the manual ritual of the Sylvia (boiler not thermoblock)… once you have the settings it is great and an acceptable coffee. turn it on…and presto your coffee. Not the morning coffee ritual with the tempramental manual machine.

  12. Michelle says:

    I just got this machine a few days ago and did all the required set-up per the manual. I have the grinder on the finest setting and the menu is set on 3 beans. The first 10-15 shots I made were total garbage, they were watery and the dreg drawer was filled with watery goop, nothing close to an espresso puck formed. I called the store to ask if this was normal, and they said yes, the machine “needs time to adjust to the beans”. After going through a 1/2 bag of beans, it appears that the machine is starting to form espresso pucks, but the shots are still fairly weak with little crema produced. Sadly, my $150 Breville Cafe Roma produced better shots than this machine.

    So I’m just wondering now, for anybody who has this machine, how long did it take for your machine to “adjust” and produce decent espresso shots with good crema? I’m running out of beans here and I’d prefer not to buy expensive beans if my machine is just gonna continue eating ‘em up and spitting out garbage.

    Thanks!

    • Lau says:

      I had a similar experience myself. Are you using the beans that came with the machine? Mine were awful, stale and old. I found the coffee improved when I used freshly roasted beans…

  13. Gene says:

    Interesting machine. I have a love-hate with mine after a month of usage, about 6-10 cappuccinos per day. Coming from a Wega Mininova and Gaggia grinder, I love its size, low noise level, freedom from coffee ground mess, tamping, etc. It’s fast and convenient, and after a few cups it makes a pretty decent strong cup of espresso with nice crema.

    I hate the temperature of the finished product – the best I can get for an espresso shot is about 165 F and 150 for cappuccino. I called Saeco and the customer service rep suggested the usual – the milk is too cold, the cups are cold you need to pre-heat the dispensing circuits, etc. She never acknowledged that the machine cannot produce enough heat to brew a hot cup of coffee. I like to brew coffee that is almost too hot to drink at first. I always pre-heat my espresso cups by pulling a shot of plain water.

    Unless I can get some satisfaction, I may be packing up my machine and exercising the 90 day, total satisfaction, no questions asked return policy.

    I think the machine is an elegant idea, but you can’t drink elegance. I just want a hot cup of coffee, and so far I have not been able to figure out how to get that out of my machine.

    • Lau says:

      Hi Gene, it is interesting to get your thoughts on the machine. I think it is tough for hot coffee drinkers generally, as flavour-wise, coffee is not ‘supposed’ to be consumed super hot. As such I assume an automatic machine such as the Intelia is pre-programmed to optimal heat settings.

      That said I’m betting someone more tech-savvy than me could figure out a way to change the temperature beyond what the factory settings would allow, but I’m assuming that if that were possible, doing so would void your warranty.

  14. Kenens says:

    Hi Gene,

    I am in the same boat as you. I like my coffee hot with a small shot of milk but when I do this I need to drink my coffee at once otherwise it’s to cold for me.

    I am not going to call Philips or Saeco. I am just going to return the device and take something that actually can produce a hot coffee.

    Side note: Our Saeco Taleo Ring Plus was such a device that could brew a hot coffee, so hot I sometimes burned my tongue.

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