We're partial to coffee around these parts. It might just be the American tradition, or the wider variety in local brews. It might, in part, be a value proposition: espresso shots are small compared with a good mug of java. Equipment might be another factor- a coffee machine is simple, but brewing espresso at home is more complicated.
illy makes it simpler, and less expensive, than ever to get good results at home. We've tried out their capsule system before, similar to the variety of pod coffees on the market, and found that their quality is excellent and extremely consistent. The X7 is a beautiful machine, classic in style, if a little top-heavy. The new illy Y1 is more industrial-looking, thanks to the aluminum body, and offers an odd feature that our testers liked: the cup warmer plate that make up much of the surface of the machine.
As with the predecessors, cleanup is easy, and making a shot is as easy as popping in a pod and pressing a button. Cleanup involves simply disposing of the pods that are collected in the drawer, and occasionally cleaning up a small amount of build up in the drawer. There's no need to tamp, grind, wonder about your grinder or pressure. And the machine is small enough to fit in just about any kitchen, taking up little counterspace.
One of the things we liked best: the price tag. illy is offering a special deal at the moment where they include some cans of capsules, and sign you off for monthly deliveries. There isn't a commitment, though, and you can cancel whenever you like. This package nets you the Y1 for $125 plus shipping and the cost of capsules- a great deal, and one we definitely appreciate. The downside, of course, is that you are locked into their style of pods- and unlike Keurig's K-cup machines which offer a basket for using your own coffees, these machines are engineered to require the capsules. Expect to pay around $1 each, after tax and shipping.
The Y1 is lovely, and the results are excellent. Your average espresso drinker won't notice the slight lack of complexity and relatively minor crema. Compared with an expensive shot pulled by a professional, the illy puts out decent, pleasant espresso. And though we missed a steamer wand, folks who need their lattes or mochas can definitely find a variety of other ways to froth that milk.
Available now, online and in limited stores. Also, Bay Area residents should note that illy is opening their first American stand-along cafe in less than a week. Espressamente will be opening at 123 Battery Street on November 15th, and will be featuring a menu designed by Joyce Goldstein.