Making cafe-quality espresso shots at home has always required high-end hardware. Add in the convenience of automation and you can expect to pay even more. Case in point is the Krups EA9010, which for $2,500 or £1,000 is a both a deluxe super-automatic machine that also boasts the power to pull superb shots of straight espresso. This compact brewer grinds its own beans as well, courtesy of a built-in burr grinder, plus steams and froths milk by itself.
More impressive, the gadget's internal drink library places many cafe standards like lattes, cappuccinos, and flat whites a mere button push away. The Krups EA9010 even services itself regularly to keep your maintenance involvement to a minimum. Of course like any coffee appliance, the EA9010 isn't perfect nor is it ideal for everyone. Even if you can stomach its staggeringly steep sticker price, the EA9010 still requires some TLC such as frequently emptying its drip tray and the occasional deep cleaning. Likewise, the machine's vague coffee dose settings and automatic grind sizing are sure to disappoint home baristas used to manual controls.
Compact in stature and without much in the way of glowing lights, protruding parts, or premium materials, if I didn't already know its asking price I doubt I'd guess just how expense the Krups EA9010 really is. There are no fancy bean hoppers, steam wands or portafilter handles sprouting away from the machine. Neither is the product encased in sparkling chrome nor crafted in an artfully modern design, both hallmarks of luxury espresso machines built by Ranchilio and La Marzocco. Even the pint-size De'Longhi Dedica draws the eye to a greater degree with its unique shape and reflective skin.
Indeed the only clue that the EA9010 is something special is a small color LCD touchscreen which sits at the center of its front face. This and perhaps the appliance's stainless-steel cup warmer, a flat vented surface running along the top of the machine, hint at the coffee maker's uncommon abilities.
To the left of the LCD you'll find a round power button, one of the EA9010's three physical controls (counting the touchscreen). The third is a "ground coffee" key which you press to unlock a metal flap in the middle of the cup warmer. Underneath the flap is a funnel for adding pre-ground coffee which channels material to the machine's circular espresso filter below.
What sets this brewer apart from the legion of ordinary drip and budget espresso coffee makers is what's hidden inside its modest frame. Directly behind the cup warmer you'll find a large trapezoidal lid. Flipping it open reveals one of the EA9010's most important attributes, a dedicated burr grinder. Baristas and coffee aficionados alike highly value burr grinders for their uniform grind size and gentle crushing motion compared with the brutal and random chopping action of blade grinders.
More surprises live behind a pair of long doors on the front of the EA9010 which flank the machine's controls and LCD screen. Opening a door on the left side of the machine uncovers a large container that captures spent espresso grounds, commonly called "pucks" due to their flat and circular shape. This bucket is also removable making it a breeze to toss its contents into the trash. Directly above the used coffee container is a drawer for housing bottles of cleaning liquid specially made by Krups (the EA9010 comes with two bottles).
Swiveling the door on the right open provides access to the EA9010's sizable water tank, which tops out at 57 ounces (1.7 L). The reservoir is removable as well and has a detachable lid for easy filling on countertops or inside sinks.
Other nice design touches include a pair of metal coffee nozzles attached to a "height-adjustable handle" along with a bright LED light. So equipped the machine can illuminate beverages during preparation plus accept a variety of cup sizes and heights simply by sliding this handle up and down. Just don't expect to dispense coffee into massive travel mugs, since the maximum nozzle clearance is about 5.25 inches.
To support coffee cups the EA9010 features a small, triangular drip tray that does double duty as a cup rest. This tray feeds into a larger drip tray behind and below it, both of which can be pulled away from the machine. Occupying the farthest corner of the small tray (the triangle point) is a transparent plastic tube which serves as a home and cleaning mechanism for the EA9010's frothing wand.
Being such a fancy machine, the Krups EA9010 requires some setup beyond what you normally see in home coffee-making equipment. After filling up both the water tank and coffee bean hopper I thought I'd be enjoying some premium espresso in short order. Not so since the machine required me to first test my local water supply for hardness.
Using a paper test strip packed in the box, I quickly discovered that my tap's H2O is quite hard, which is common here in Louisville. Thankfully according to Krups the EA9010 is prepared for this situation and after punching in the corresponding values, the brewer was now calibrated to accommodate my custom water hardness levels. A filter cartridge you place inside the water tank (included) is also supposed to help improve water quality.
One of the Krups EA9010's major selling points is its deep library of java drink options. The LCD displays popular beverage choices on its home screen such as "Espresso," "Coffee," "Cappuccino" and "Cafe Latte." The machine also groups additional drink recipes under "Black Specials," which contains many traditional espresso variations including, "Restretto," "Doppio" and "Lungo." You can also tell the machine to create americanos, standard black coffee or even a "Red Eye" (regular coffee amped up by two more espresso shots).
Underneath the "White Specials" menu you'll find options for whipping up milk-based drinks, including cafe au lait, flat whites, milchkaffee, and plain hot or steamed milk. And if all you'd like is hot water for say a cup of tea, the machine provides a way to do that too. There's even a "Favorites" function which allows users to populate custom profiles with the drinks they enjoy often.
Due to the Krups EA9010's luxurious price I expected a high degree of automation, but I was completely unprepared by just how robotic this machine is. Sure, the EA9010 pulls shots of espresso in much the same fashion as other coffee makers I've used such as the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista. Aside from the initial buzz of the internal burr grinder kicking into action, both brewers essentially begin making coffee at the touch of a button.
The EA9010 takes hands-free espresso making to another level entirely. Manual and semiautomatic machines require you to first grind your beans (or at least provide it with grounds), then fill, load, tamp, then swivel their portafilters into place before you can even contemplate pulling a shot. You may have to also wait until the contraption's water boiler comes up to temperature.
Truly a device for lazy espresso addicts, the EA9010 asks you to do none of this. Just make your drink selection and a swift 45 seconds later, it'll treat you with a lovely shot of black gold. And since the machine's thermoblock heats up and stays hot when you first turn it on, I was never caught twiddling my thumbs waiting for an ideal brewing temp.
I was truly blown away when I first commanded the Krups EA9010 to make a cappuccino. At first the appliance instructed me to pour 2 ounces of milk into a glass cup (two are bundled with the machine). Then after I set the glass (with cold milk) down on the cup holder, the EA9010 automatically lowered its milk-frothing tube and began heating the dairy into a light and airy foam. Next the tube disappears back into the machine while two streams of hot, concentrated java flow into the cup. Lastly the gadget automatically rinses its frothing wand inside the "steam nozzle cleaning container," the plastic tube I described earlier, by flushing it a few times with its special solution.
All that robotic cleaning translates to extra work on your part. Outfitted with built-in fill sensors, both water trays are pretty shallow and the machine was constantly imploring me to empty them. That said I'd rather take multiple trips to the sink than risk flooding my kitchen counter.
It goes without saying that I had high hopes for the quality level of drinks from the Krups EA9010. I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed. Not only did the machine pull shots of straight espresso quickly, conveniently, and with minimal effort, they tasted delicious too. Indeed, shots I sampled using the lowest liquid volume (1.3 ounces water) to coffee strength (level three, maximum) settings available were consistently flavorful, yet balanced, never bitter.
Espresso created from my finicky but cheap test beans (Costco House Blend) had lots of complexity, chocolate notes, with just a slight dry finish. That said they lacked the richness of what I experienced from the De'Longhi Dedica. Even so, shots the EA9010 pulled had significantly better crema, frankly the thickest and most impressive I've experienced to date from a home espresso machine.
Provided I used the highest temperature setting, this Krups brewer was also the best at handling light roasts of any espresso gadget I've tested so far. Either when grinding beans myself (large ultrafine burr setting), or automatically ground, shots I pulled of my go-to premium espresso roast (Quills Blacksmith) were sweet, full-bodied and bright, never sour.
In fact to get a second opinion of the Krups EA9010's espresso making abilities I packed up the machine and headed out to the Quills Coffee New Albany, Indiana, location. Quills isn't merely one of my favorite local coffee shops and roasters, the outfit competed nationally at Coffeefest 2015 in Chicago and was awarded the tittle America's Best Coffee House. This particular spot is also where Quills runs a training lab dedicated to educating its baristas.
With the Krups device set up and ready to go I sat down with Michael Butterworth, who is the director of education for Quills Coffee. I also offered up a challenge he couldn't refuse, a blind taste test. Using the same Quills coffee and water feeding both the Krups EA9010 and the professional La Marzocco Strada espresso machine before us ($18,000), I asked him to correctly identify which shot was pulled by hand and which was robotically brewed. Let's just say the result was surprising. Check out the video to see for yourself.
Testing in the lab confirmed what I tasted. Refractometer readings of espresso brewed from Costco test beans consistently hovered between a TDS (total dissolved solids) percentage of 3.6 and 4.2 percent. While low compared with the roughly 15 percent TDS I experienced from the De'Longhi Dedica, this actually translates to an excellent extraction percentage of between 17 and 20 percent. The ideal coffee extraction percentage is considered to be between 18 and 22 percent to achieve full flavor without the bitterness of over extraction .
This calculation assumes that the 0.25-ounce (0.7 gram) dose of grounds per single shot of espresso, which according to Krups the brewer uses by default, is correct. Of course since the EA9010 doses its coffee automatically, there's no real way of verifying this formula directly. That said, when I brewed shots by adding 0.2 ounce of grounds manually I experienced similar, and delicious, results (4 percent TDS, 26 percent extraction).
I must say I'm quite embarrassed by my experience with the Krups EA9010. Priced at an unattainable $2,500 (£999.95), at least for me, my immediate instinct was to scoff at, deride, even fear this exorbitant home espresso machine -- because I might actually like it. Unfortunately despite all of my resistance, my objections quickly crumbled in the face of the EA9010's excellent performance and supreme convenience. Making great shots of espresso coffee is difficult even for trained baristas and the fact that the EA9010 automates the process to the point of being mundane is truly remarkable.
For all the Krups EA9010's impressive abilities though, a super-automatic espresso machine like this isn't for everyone, or even most coffee fanatics. For example home espresso junkies who wouldn't blink at spending this much on imported brewers, grinders, and other paraphernalia will likely poo poo the EA9010's lack of true manual controls. For this breed of coffee drinker, investing in a superb Baratza Vario W grinder ($585) paired with a Rancho Silva ($1,000) or perhaps a Breville Dual-Boiler ($1,299) makes eminently more sense. If you're seeking delicious espresso without having to toil in front of a piping-hot machine, and have money to burn, then the Krups EA9010 is the luxury gadget you've been waiting for.