One of the main draws of brewing espresso at home is that, over time, you can save money as you’re not always buying your shots from local coffee shops. However, many espresso machines are expensive, which leads some coffee lovers to believe that brewing their own espressos is out of reach.
But what if there was an espresso machine that were affordable and could pull robust shots and make gorgeous milk-based coffee drinks?
The Calphalon Temp iQ machine is one of the espresso makers that promises to do just that, offering excellent functionality and performance. In fact, it’s a great option for coffee enthusiasts who are neither experienced nor have a big budget but are still hoping for high-quality home-brewed coffee.
This article reviews one of the best semi-automatic espresso machines on the market (you can find our complete list and reviews of the best ones here).
Calphalon Espresso Machine Review
There are two Calphalon Temp iQ espresso machine models – one with a grinder, one without. Here are the models:
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Don’t let these product names confuse you – like most espresso machines, both have steam wands, despite that not being mentioned in the name of the latter model.
This review concentrates on the Calphalon Temp iQ Espresso Machine With Steam Wand (Without Grinder) because it’s the most popular of the two and the most affordable. However, towards the end of the article, we will compare the model without a grinder with the alternative.
Established in 1963, Calphalon specializes in premium-quality aluminum bakeware, cookware, and kitchen appliances. Initially, it was named Commercial Aluminum Cookware, and its market was primarily the restaurant industry. However, the company’s reputation grew due to its products’ high quality and performance. As a result, in 1992, the company rebranded as Calphalon. Today, it is one of the best cookware manufacturers in industrial and domestic markets.
Among Calphalon’s kitchen appliances are ovens, blenders, and toasters. However, it also produces a drip coffee maker and two espresso machine models.
Build Quality And Design
First impressions of the Calphalon Temp IQ espresso machine are that it seems easy to use and reliable. The machine is aimed at the entry-level market, and, as such, it is relatively affordable. However, thanks to its stainless steel exterior and chrome accents, it looks far more high-end. Overall, the machine looks elegant and sturdy, although it has black plastic on the top and both sides.
Design-wise, this is a standard semi-automatic espresso machine, with a steam wand on the right and a stainless steel group head in the center. Directly above the group head is a dial button in the middle of the control panel. There are single or double shot espresso options, and turn on the hot water dispenser or steam wand. An aesthetically pleasing toggle for turning the machine on and off is more attractive than a button.
At the top is a cup-warming tray that has space for two to three espresso cups, and there’s also a place for the tamper. The water reservoir is removable and has an extremely generous capacity of 2L (70oz).
There is a huge drip tray with a floater to indicate when it is full. This is also removable for convenient cleaning. Meanwhile, the cleaning tool fits snugly behind the drip tray, making it hard to misplace.
This coffee machine without a grinder has a stainless steel milk pitcher, a tamper, and a cleaning pin. The plastic tamper is fairly nondescript, but it does the job. However, if you want more consistency, you can replace it with a solid metal alternative.
The machine also has a limited three-year warranty.
The Caphalon Temp iQ espresso machine is squarely aimed at domestic baristas. However, brewing espresso is a complex task, and it’s even harder without a good espresso grinder.
The machine has both single and double shot pressurized filter baskets, leading to less frustration. Indeed, the pressurized filter baskets offer a viable alternative for domestic baristas who either don’t have an espresso grinder or are using pre-ground coffee. That’s because they offer more leeway in the grind size. So, even using inconsistent coffee grounds, you should still get a delicious espresso topped with a rich crema. The Temp iQ espresso machine with grinder also has single and dual wall baskets, which is logical considering the built-in espresso grinder.
The 58mm portafilter is a commercial size, which is regarded as excellent for extraction, and its ability to hold more coffee grounds produces a more robust flavor. However, when paired with dual-wall baskets, it could be a bit straight for coffee snobs
Overall, the portafilter is impressive. However, there is one drawback – the bottom of it is plastic rather than a more robust stainless steel.
Thermoblock And PID
The machine has thermoblock heating and PID temperature control, hence the name Temp iQ. The digital temperature control guarantees evenly heat during the espresso extraction, which is a significant feature as you’d normally only find this in higher-end machines. This feature, combined with the 15 bar pump and pre-infusion, means that even beginners can make excellent espresso using this machine.
Most similarly-priced coffee makers are single-boiler machines. However, thermoblock heating technology differs from boilers in that it is more energy efficient because it only heats the water when it’s in use. The water heats rapidly, meaning pre-heating the machine doesn’t take as long.
Auto Shot Volumetric Control
The machine allows you to choose a single or double shot, and it will use the appropriate water volume to pull the shot. This means there’s no need to figure out the coffee to water ratio for great-tasting coffee as it does it for you.
Taking into consideration the advantages of accurate brewing temperature, correct coffee to water ratio, and 58mm pressurized filter basket, it’s straightforward making a good shot of espresso. There’s none of the frustration of dialing in or accurately calculating other elements as you’d need to with semi-automatic espresso machines.
Milk Steaming Performance
Many coffee drinkers purchase an espresso machine for far more than a straight single or double espresso shot. The ability to create cappuccinos, lattes, and other espresso-based beverages is often a key reason too.
After pulling your espresso shot, the Temp iQ’s powerful steam wand creates microfoam milk for lattes or the creamy froth of a cappuccino.
Transitioning from brewing to steaming milk takes approximately 15 seconds, which, thanks to the thermoblock heating system, is quicker than most single boiler machines.
The machine has a commercial-style steam wand instead of the Panarello wand you’ll accompanying many beginner-level machines. The advantage of this is it offers more control of the milk-frothing process. The downside is you’ll need a more advanced technique to achieve the best texture.
You may find the 6oz milk frothing pitcher that comes with the machine too small. However, you can replace it with a bigger alternative to improve the frothing.
We found the frothing performance decent. Many users say that the machine is too loud while frothing milk. However, in our opinion, it’s no more excessive than other espresso makers. Indeed, it’s necessarily fairly loud because the steam wand creates bubbles by injecting air into the milk.
When you position the tip of the steam wand on the milk’s surface, it screams. Then, when you notice the whirlpool, move the tip deeper into the milk and let it continue to whirl. This technique will create a fluffy and smooth texture.
Ease Of Use – How To Use The Machine
As we have mentioned, brewing espresso is straightforward with the Temp iQ. Now, let’s go through the steps to making beautiful espresso.
Step one: Turn on the machine. Once the indicator light flashes, it will need around 40 seconds to pre-heat. When the “Ready” light illuminates, the machine is ready to pull a shot.
Step two: Place the appropriate filter basket in the portafilter for either a single or double espresso shot.
Step three: Use 13-15 grams of ground coffee for a single shot or 20 grams for a double. Tamp the grounds evenly.
Step four: Attach the portafilter to the group head.
Step five: Move the dial to the one or two shot position. The machine will pre-infuse for a few seconds, and coffee will begin emerging from the spout. When the pre-set volume is reached, it will stop.
As you can see, making a shot of espresso with the Temp iQ is not difficult. The dual wall portafilter makes coffee brewing very straightforward to brew delicious coffee with a rich crema.
If you would like to brew Americano, move the dial to the hot water position, put your cup beneath the steam wand, and it will pour hot water over the espresso. Alternatively, if you’d rather make espresso-based drinks, froth the milk after pulling the shot.
The user manual is clearly written, so if you have any issues, it should help. We appreciate manuals of this nature and far prefer them to a single piece of paper showing sample illustrations for instructions.
Drawbacks are few and far between. However, the model without the grinder doesn’t have non-pressurized filter baskets, and the manufacturer doesn’t offer them as accessories. Also, we believe that if Calphalon were to replace the plastic cup warming tray and tamper with stainless steel alternatives, it would enhance the overall impression of the quality of the machine.
Value For Money
The Calphalon Temp iQ is very competitively priced with excellent features. Also, it performs far more efficiently than many cheaper options. It’s not quite as good as renowned, ever-popular machines, including the Breville Barista Express and Gaggia Classic Pro, but it’s not far off.
If you want to brew beautiful espresso but have a limited budget, this is an espresso maker well worth considering.
Temp iQ Espresso Machine With Or Without Grinder?
As we mentioned earlier, there are two Temp iQ models, one with a coffee grinder and one without. You need to determine whether you need a grinder. Espresso grounds differ from regular grounds as they are very fine. That means a regular grinder might not achieve the necessary fineness.
The Temp iQ model with a built-in grinder has an adjustable burr grinder for grinding fresh coffee beans for maximum flavor extraction. There are 30 grind settings, allowing plenty of scope for perfecting your grind setting. However, you will need to pay significantly more for this model.
If you already have an espresso grinder or plan to buy one, the basic model will suffice. However, if you have yet to buy a grinder, keep in mind that standalone espresso grinders are expensive, so you can ultimately save money on the model with the grinder.
Aside from the grinder, the models differ in two other areas – the grinder model has two additional non-pressurized single and double shot filter baskets. Meanwhile, it also has a larger water reservoir, with a 2.8L capacity rather than 2L. In every other area, the brewing and steaming performances of the two models are the same.
If you want an espresso machine with a grinder
Breville Barista Express is one of the best-selling semi-automatic coffee machines. It has a built-in grinder and offers more control than the Temp iQ. Many experienced baristas say this machine is the best beginner-level machine for domestic brewing. It costs more than the Calphalon Temp iQ, but it is tried and trusted, having been on the market for around a decade.
If you want better espresso in the same price range
Gaggia Classic Pro is another popular espresso machine that’s both premium-quality and affordable. This machine doesn’t have a built-in grinder. However, it has a 58mm portafilter with both pressurized and non-pressurized baskets. It’s known for its reliability, and, although it costs more than the basic Calphalon Temp iQ, it is worth considering if you would like to master your brewing technique and brew coffee shop-quality espresso. Check our review of the Gaggia Classic Pro for more details.
Even though there are many espresso machines, it’s hard to find one that brews delicious espresso while remaining affordable. Thankfully, the Calphalon addresses that issue.
The machine doesn’t require you to have lots of experience to make gorgeous espresso, and it’s easy to use. It also benefits from auto-shot volumetric control, PID, a commercial size portafilter, and forgiving pressurized baskets.
Regardless of which model you choose, they are reasonably priced, offering a great introduction for inexperienced baristas looking to begin their espresso-brewing journey. Overall, either model is well worth considering as a first espresso machine.