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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