By James Wells

The Nine Network has aired a controversial contest where espresso machines and coffee makers were judged using what some companies have described as a biased panel of experts.

In the report by A Current Affair’s David Eccleston, manual and automatic espresso machines were placed “under the pump” and judged by “four of Australia’s finest baristas” including Rob Forsyth with 30 years coffee experience, Gavin Folder from Origin Coffee and Sam Gabriella from Houlihans coffee shop with seven years experience.

The fourth judge was Sunbeam coffee ambassador, Paul Bassett, who has worked with the company to design and develop the Café Series Twin Pump Twin Thermoblock espresso machine, which was included in the test and was judged as the winner in all three categories.

The report showed the judges inspecting a range of coffee machines to evaluate which one produced the ‘best cup of coffee’, offered the ‘best value for money’ and was ‘most user friendly’.

At the beginning of the report, A Current Affair tested the Sunbeam Café Ristretto (RRP $89) as the cheapest model.
The report made no comments on the quality of its coffee other than “at $89 the Sunbeam manual espresso is the cheapest tested”.

The next machine tested was the Philips Senseo coffee maker – a product that is not marketed as an espresso machine.

In the report, judges commented that this product was “definitely easy to use” and “has an impressive price tage of $129”, but other comments included “our baristas are not so positive about the taste” and “that doesn’t taste like coffee much at all, does it?”.

The next product tested was the Krups K2 Plus espresso machine from Krups at $249.
Forsyth described the taste of the coffee produced by the product as: “surprising”, while Bassett complained that the machine had a “smaller filter basket – so your organic content is going to be less.”

The only other machine tested under $500 was the Breville 800ES, which was described as “so far the standout at $400”, which created a “sweeter” coffee according to the judges.

In what the report referred to as “the mid range”, was the Sunbeam twin thermoblock twin pump machine at $599 which A Current Affair said was “the Paul Bassett designed Sunbeam manual machine”.

The report explained the product’s twin boiler provided users with the ability to make coffee and froth milk at the same time.
The Saeco Incanto espresso machine was tested as the company’s only product in the automatic espresso category, even though the company sells machines well over $2,000.
“That’s a zero,” said Forstyth.

When asked why it rated a zero, Forsyth said that the coffee extracted from the Saeco machine did not create a crema with a rich dark chestnut colour. Forsyth claimed that the coffee created by Saeco “had no crema at all”, with the reporter adding to Forstyth’s comments by saying “very watery”.

The next machine tested was Sunbeam’s only automatic coffee machine which retails for $850.
After being prompted by Bassett, one of the other judges said: “not the same sort of texture as we are getting from the manual style machines.”

After asking “By automatic standards?” Bassett helps extract a comment from one of the other judges.
“By automatic standards, it’s good,” the judge said.

Bassett was not interviewed throughout the rest of the story apart from his last statement when he was asked what the warranty on the product was.

After hesitating, Bassett said: “Five year commercial warranty” which was referred to as particularly good value for a $600 machine.
The last machine to be judged, the ExpoBar, was classed as the top-end of the domestic market  at $2300.
“Well, it’s for the serious coffee lovers.”

The Expobar is the only machine that one of the judges – Rob Forsyth sells.
When it came to final judging “which makes the best cup of coffee”, Forstyth was unable to hide his preference.
“I’m obviously torn because I like the traditional manual control of the ExpoBar,” he said.

Eventually Forsyth agreed with three of the baristas in deciding that Bassett’s machine was the best.
The Sunbeam Twin Pump Twin Thermoblock machine was judged as the best cup of coffee and it also won the category for best value for money.

“Our Baristas picked the ExpoBar and the Sunbeam as the easiest to use,” Eccleston said to wrap up the report.
The two machines which were judged the best both featured representatives who were very familiar with the product.