In the late 70s up to early 90s having a coffee maker at home is a necessity that comes with a very steep price tag. Most of them back then were bulky and needed a lot of tinkering. Fast forward to 2019; these machines have gotten so smaller, cheaper, and more accessible to the typical consumer, precisely like our featured espresso machine, the Bella BLA13683 Personal Espresso Maker.
This affordable espresso machine promises to deliver a robust and velvety coffee without breaking the bank. We weren't sure ourselves, so we had to try it out. Intriguingly, customer reviews on Amazon were a mix; some say it works great, while others swear that its a piece of trash.
We had to try the machine ourselves, to see if the reviews had any bearing, but before anything else, let's begin with its specs.
Out of the box, Bella's espresso maker has an impressive svelte look that's accentuated by knobs and levers on the side and the front. By the looks of it, this product feels in between a cheap and premium item.
Standing in at 9.4 x 8.9 x 11.2 inches and weighing 4.76 pounds, the machine can be stowed easily around your kitchen. It's semi-retro look adds character to your kitchen top.
The BLA13683 steam espresso maker is capable of delivering 5 bars of pressure, a common standard for most modern coffee thingamajigs. Comparatively speaking it works similar to the Barista Express and Bestek's 3.5 Bar Steam Espresso Maker.
As a matter of fact, like the above-mentioned machines, the Bella BLA13683 Personal Espresso Maker comes with a measuring and tamping tool. However, the measuring scoop is bigger than the portafilter, making it difficult to pour the coffee grounds into the filter. It can get messy on a given coffee session.
But despite the whole fiasco with the scoop, the tamper does fit in nicely. Giving users the flexibility to loosely or firmly tamp the grounds depending on your preferred taste and consistency.
Given the fact that it's one of the cheapest espresso makers in the market today, it's steam wand is stationary. For starters, it will take some practice to figure out the best routine for frothing and heating milk.
The BLA13683's water tank is not removable, and the tray is permanently attached to the device. Not to worry though the espresso maker comes with a carafe and the grate is removable to clean out spills and days old water.
For first time users, the Bella Espresso Machine needs to be manually washed prior to the initial operation. If you're not a fan of plastic though, the strong burnt material smell might be a major turnoff. It does not taint the taste of the espresso though, but for nitty-picky users, it might totally be a problem.
As a safety feature, the espresso machine comes with a polarized plug, meaning that it can only be plugged one way to prevent the possibility of electric shock. We've noticed though that the bottom becomes extremely hot.
The heat (in some cases) can cause discoloration or darkening of your countertop. Using a non-plastic coaster could at least minimize the damage but it's definitely one of its weak suits.
We weren't actually sure of what to expect from the Bella 13683 but by the looks of it, it's not totally that bad, well if you consider it on a buying standpoint. It's cheap and relatively fast.
On most occasions low priced espresso makers usually have issues with leaking and poor tasting espresso, but the Bella was pleasingly surprising. It's the espresso machine that hits its mark between affordability and taste.
Interestingly, the included carafe keeps the decoction hot for a longer period. It can also serve 4 shots of espresso and we like the machine's snug fitting. It also operates in a very straightforward manner.
Another thing that we like with the Bella 13683 is that it's easy to clean. The parts are mostly accessible and although some of its components are non-detachable, it's large orifices are easily reached by cleaning sponges. The steam wand also works wonders with milk frothing.
Bella could improve their measuring cup because transferring the grounds to the portafilter can be a bit messy. Another thing they could improve is the insulation at the bottom of the espresso maker. It really gets hot at times and can damage and discolor kitchen countertops.
Interestingly, despite favorable results from our testing, some users have reported subpar performance with poor workmanship on their units. We don't know if its a flaw in their quality control procedures, but it must be looked into.
If you're looking at the Bella BLA13683 Personal Espresso Maker as you're next espresso maker, you should also check out our other reviews with similar specifications like the Barista Express and Bestek's 3.5 Bar Steam Espresso Maker.
The small compact design of these machines is perfect if you're looking for small units that don't take up that much space on your countertop. Amongst the available items in Amazon, the three are amongst the cheapest and well rated.
The Bella BLA13683 Personal Espresso Maker isn't gonna blow you away with complicated specs and over the top styling. It does, however, serve four delicious cups of espresso without breaking the bank.
If you're willing to brush aside the possibility of a defective unit (we got a good one though) then you'd gamble on this tiny machine. It a no-frills straightforward brewer that will give you decent tasting espresso less than 50 bucks.