Breville's Die Cast Espresso Machine

We've been talking a lot about coffee since this Bittersweet Baking thing got underway. To celebrate, to keep us awake, and to keep us in our chairs blogging and not running out for lattes, we started brewing our own espresso drinks in the office.

We're playing around with Breville's Die Cast Espresso Machine. This pretty little machine had even the tea-drinkers in the office filling up while they blog and it's been nothing short of buzzy.

If you're looking for a high-end espresso machine, but don't want to drop $900 on the Francis Francis X1, the Breville Die Cast Espresso Machine, which retails for about $400, is a nice choice.

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All stainless, almost Delorean-esque in its use of metal, the machine feels sturdy and is easy to clean. The steam wand for making foamy milk is mounted on a swivel ball which makes for easy maneuverability, a feature not many comparable machines have (see photo at left). This way you can easily fit your favorite milk pitcher underneath, including the very nice one that comes with the machine.

It can be a bit loud, so watch it in the office around conference calls or at home near sleeping babies or skittish pets. We also found that it had a bit of a steep learning curve: a good week of making espresso and we had it mastered, but most of us fumbled around a lot with the order of the buttons and had some messy incidents with unexpected bursts of steam.

The Die Cast Espresso Machine is one of the prizes in our Bittersweet Baking Contest. We're rolling through the finalists now, and the winner will be announced February 6-8.

The Good: Beautiful design (we subscribe to "the less plastic, the better"), 15-bar pump makes a nice strong shot of espresso, heats up quickly.

The Not-So-Good: A bit noisy, a slightly high learning curve, can be a little messy.