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We have reviewed five of the most popular affordable steam based machines. Here is our take on the Bella.
The design of most steam based machines is similar. In particular the two features of steam based machines to note are the size of the machine and filter as well as the glass carafe.
Steam based machines are generally compact, light and convenient. The Bella is no exception. In fact it is one of the lighter machines at 4.76 pounds. The dimensions then are 9.4 by 8.9 by 11.2 inches. This is a useful feature of steam based machines as their footprint is small and they don’t take up much space in your kitchen.
The large portafilter and glass carafe are also standard features of steam based espresso machines. This means that you can brew more coffee at a time – generally 4 cups. The coffee is then collected in a glass carafe instead of directly into a mug. I like this feature as I think the coffee is nicely presented in the carafe and the glass keeps the coffee hot for longer.
Features that Make the Bella Different
- The Bella comes with a two in one measuring and tamping tool. The tamper fits well into the portafilter and offers a good tamp. The measuring scoop, however, is a little bigger than the portafilter, which can be a little bit awkward but it’s not a major issue.
- This machine contains some safety features that are absent in other steam based espresso machines of this class. One of these features is the polarized plug which ensures better electrical safety in the house. This is an advantage if you have young children running around!
- The other safety feature of note is the steam pressurized safety cap which is built to keep in renegade steam and protect you from being burned.
- The Bella has a pressure button to let you know when the steam wand is hot enough. If we try to use the steam wand before it is fully heated we will just be injecting warm water into our milk and not steaming it so this is a nice feature.
- The lid of the carafe snaps on securely and is designed to prevent leaking.
- The portafilter is secure and snug fitting so that it won’t fall out.
- The Bella is very fast to heat up. On the one hand this is great for getting coffee quickly. However, the heat that this machine produces can be problematic and I will talk about this more in a minute.
- As I mentioned, the machine is light, compact and nifty.
- The pressure button tells you when steam is ready.
- The Bella isn’t expensive – you can buy one for just over $40 dollars on Amazon.
- It comes with the useful safety features previously discussed.
- It has an above average rating on Amazon.
- The espresso yield is quite good. It is possible to achieve a crema on top of your espresso.
- It heats up quickly for quick coffee.
- It brews four cups of coffee in one go.
- Coffee retains heat in the carafe.
- The drip tray and filter are removable.
- The water tank is not removable.
- Instructions are not easy to follow.
- Problems have been known to occur in this machine after a while.
- When first purchased it needs to be thoroughly rinsed to get rid of the smell of plastic.
- There are one or two design flaws associated with this machine.
- The steam wand doesn’t move.
- The machine is made entirely of plastic and the materials are generally not of the best quality.
A Couple of Things
This machine has one or two design quirks that are potentially problematic.
First and foremost: it has been reported that, due to the extreme heat produced from the machine and the plastic materials, this machine is known to leak plastic onto your countertop, which then stain it. You can avoid that by using a heat resistant mat under the coffee machine. However, the manufacturer is upfront about this and they do include a warning with the machine. If the problem is dealt with at the start there is no issue.
The control knob is temperamental, stiff and prone to breaking. Several reviewers have mentioned that they have difficulty getting the knob to turn. Others have said that the knob broke after a month or two of use.
You get what you pay for
The Bella steam based espresso maker does have one or two design faults and it is not going to last you forever. However, this is only to be expected with the price tag.
At the end of the day, the Bella is a cheap, accessible machine that likely fits into all budgets. It is a way of brewing espresso style coffee in your home in a very affordable way and this is hard to argue with.
Have a think about what your priorities are then shop accordingly. If price is your main concern, the Bella isn’t a bad option. It is fairly safe to use and the coffee is not bad compared to other machines of the same price.
If you are willing to spend a few dollars more, check out some of the other steam based espresso machines we have reviewed such as the Krups XP100050, the steam espresso machine from Mr. Coffee and the steam based espresso machine from Sowtech.