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Calphalon Espresso Machine Review

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Last updated: January 2, 2024

Quick Answer: Although the Calphalon Temp IQ is not a bad espresso machine, the Breville Bambino is a better machine that costs the same as the Calphalon.

In this Calphalon espresso machine review I’ll be telling you what I like and dislike about the machine, as well as answering the following questions:

  • Is the Calphalon Temp IQ the best espresso machine you can get for under $400? (Quick answer: No, but it’s one of the better options at this price)
  • Is the Calphalon Temp IQ a good espresso machine for beginners? (Quick answer: Yes, especially if you want to make milk-based drinks like lattes)
  • Is it better to get the version of the Calphalon Temp IQ with a built-in grinder or the grinder-less version? (Quick answer: Definitely avoid the version with a built-in grinder) 

Let’s get started.

Do I Recommend the Calphalon Espresso Machine (Quick Verdict)?

While I don’t think the Calphalon Temp IQ is a bad coffee machine, the Breville Bambino is a better machine that costs the same as the Calphalon.

I’d therefore recommend the Breville Bambino instead of the Calphalon Temp IQ.

MUCH better than the Calphalon Temp IQ
Breville Bambino
$299.95
The Breville Bambino can make better espresso than the similarly priced Calphalon Temp IQ thanks to its inclusion of an over-pressure valve.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/02/2024 10:16 pm GMT

The Calphalon Temp IQ is still one of the better espresso machines on the market for under $400. 

If for whatever reason you cannot get your hands on the Breville Bambino, then the Calphalon Temp IQ is still a good option at this price.

It’s easy to use and its steam wand is better than what you’d get on most machines at this price point. This makes it particularly good for people who want to make latte and cappuccino without too much effort.

Espresso quality
5/10
Steamed milk quality
8/10
Functionalities
8/10
Ease of use and cleaning
8/10
Design and build quality
5/10
Value for money
7/10

I would definitely recommend getting the grinder-less version of the Calphalon Temp IQ over the version with a grinder.

The Calphalon Temp IQ’s integrated burr grinder is let down by the fact that it has no way of measuring your dose. 

This means that you need to measure out every ground coffee dose with a separate scale for every shot that you pull.

You’re much better off pairing the Calphalon espresso machine with a separate adjustable burr grinder that measures your dose out for you.

Overview of Calphalon Temp IQ

The Calphalon Temp IQ is an espresso machine with a portafilter (as opposed to a super-automatic espresso machine).

It has automatic dosing for your espresso shots and a pin-holed steam wand for frothing milk.

The table below shows the grinder-less Calphalon Temp IQ’s key specifications:

Specification Calphalon Temp IQ Espresso Machine without Grinder
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
13.9” W x 11.6” D x 15.3” H
Group head/portafilter basket diameter
58 mm
Heating System
Thermoblock with PID
Pump
15 bar Italian pump
Automatic water dosing
Yes – single and double shot options
Over Pressure Valve
No
Steam wand type
Pin-hole (single hole)
Built in coffee grinder
No
Water tank size
67 oz (enough for 40 double shots)
Accessories
Stainless steel milk pitcher, plastic tamper
Portafilter baskets
Single and double shot pressurized portafilter baskets
Buy on Amazon

Calphalon Temp IQ Pros

Its steam wand is better than most similarly priced machines. It can make silky microfoam for latte art.

Its PID means that it maintains an ideal brewing temperature throughout pulling your shot. 

It can transition between pulling a shot and steaming milk faster than most similarly priced espresso machines.

Its drip tray has a drawer in it that you can sweep spilled coffee grounds into.

Calphalon Temp IQ Cons

It does not have an over-pressure valve which limits how fine you can grind. This means the Calphalon will make more bland espresso than machines with an over-pressure valve.

It does not come with non-pressurized portafilter baskets.

You cannot use the machine with an espresso cup because its portafilter’s spouts are too wide to accommodate one.

It’s very hard to find aftermarket parts for the machine so you’re in trouble if one of its parts breaks.

Espresso Quality

The Calphalon Temp IQ can make decent but not truly delicious espresso. Its lack of over- pressure valve limits how fine a coffee grind you can use with the machine.

Before I evaluate the Calphalon’s espresso quality, I just want to outline the variables that determine how well an espresso machine brews espresso. These are:

  • Temperature control: The more an espresso machine can maintain its temperature between 195-204 Fahrenheit while pulling your shot, the better espresso it will create. This is because this is the temperature where coffee extracts into water fastest without burning. The component that an espresso machine needs to control its brewing temperature is a proportional integral derivative (PID).
  • Pressure control: The closer an espresso machine can get to nine bars of pressure in its brew head without exceeding it, then the better espresso it will make. Nine bars of pressure allow you to brew very finely ground coffee beans without channeling occurring (I’ll talk more about channeling in a second but the important thing is that we want to avoid it). The key component that an espresso machine needs to control brewing pressure is an over-pressure valve (OPV).

While there are other variables that affect espresso quality, such as grind size and uniformity, and the freshness of your beans, these are variables that are determined by you, rather than by your machine.

With this in mind, I’m going to evaluate the Calphalon’s espresso quality based on its ability to control brewing temperature and pressure.

Temperature Control

The Calphalon Temp IQ’s temperature control is superb and rivals that of a high-end commercial espresso machine. 

The machine uses Thermoblock heating technology and a PID to control the temperature of the water that it heats. 

This means that water is always heated to 198 degrees Fahrenheit just as it makes contact with the ground coffee. This temperature is maintained throughout you pulling the shot for optimal espresso extraction.

This temperature control means that the Calphalon will make better-tasting espresso than the majority of cheap espresso machines (like Delonghi’s Dedica range and Krups’ espresso machines).

Pressure Control

The Calphalon’s pressure control system is fairly crude. This means that it will make inferior espresso to machines that have an over-pressure valve (such as the Breville Bambino).

The Calphalon Temp IQ uses a 15 Bar pump to create the pressure needed to brew espresso. 

Remember that espresso is meant to be brewed under 9 Bars of pressure. 

Higher-end machines use a 15 Bar pump in conjunction with an over-pressure valve (OPV) to ensure that the machine does not use too much pressure when brewing.

The Calphalon Temp IQ does not have an OPV, so the machine will often over-pressurize your espresso. 

It will not ever exert a full 15 Bars of pressure (that’s just its maximum possible pressure), but it will likely brew in the 11.5-13 Bar region.

This is not a devastating amount of additional pressure, but it does make channeling (where your water makes a channel in the coffee puck and all flows through that channel) more likely.

If holes (channels) are created in your coffee bed then your brewing water will funnel through them and the surrounding coffee will not come into contact with enough water.

Channeling results in the coffee immediately around the channels being over-extracted and other parts of the coffee bed being underextracted. This creates an undrinkable espresso with overpowering bitter and sour notes. 

The only way to stop channeling from occurring is to grind your coffee coarser. 

Coarser grinds mean that there is more space between each grind in your coffee bed.

This allows your highly pressurized brewing water to find paths between each grind to run through without needing to create further channels in your coffee bed.

Brewing espresso with coarser ground coffee also means that less of your coffee’s surface area is exposed to your brewing water. 

This decreases extraction and results in a blander final drink (this bland final drink is still better than an espresso where channeling has occurred, however).

The Calphalon Temp IQ, therefore, has a lower espresso quality ceiling than machines with better pressure control because of this need to work with coarsely ground coffee.

If you see that an espresso machine has a PID and an OPV then it likely can make better espresso than the Calphalon Temp IQ.

What about the 58mm Portafilter?

During my research, I noticed that a lot of other reviewers were saying that the Calphalon Temp IQ’s 58 mm portafilter helps you to get a better extraction compared to machines that had a 51mm or 54mm portafilter.

While this larger portafilter diameter may slightly aid extraction, I would take a machine with a 51mm/54mm portafilter and an OPV over one with a 58mm portafilter and no OPV every day of the week.

Grind size is much more of an important factor in espresso quality than the diameter and depth of your coffee puck, so I don’t buy Calphalon’s apologists saying that the machine’s 58 mm portafilter makes up for its lack of pressure control.

Espresso Quality Rating: 6/10

While the Calphalon Temp IQ’s PID allows it to make better espresso than cheap espresso machines, its lack of pressure control puts quite a low ceiling on its espresso quality.

Quality of Steam Wand

The Calphalon Temp IQ has a really good steam wand. This is the highlight of the machine.

The Calphalon Temp IQ uses a pin-hole steam wand. This allows it to make better-steamed milk than many similarly priced machines that use a panarello steam wand (you can tell if a machine has a panarello steam wand because it has a plastic sleeve around it).

The Calphalon’s pinhole steam wand allows you to make fine microfoam for latte art.

You cannot do this with machines that use a panarello.

If you have gone through the Calphalon Temp IQ’s negative reviews on Amazon, you might have seen a few people complaining that the machine’s steam wand is too powerful and just sprays milk everywhere when you use it.

I think that this only happens when the steam wand’s tip is loose (it often comes out of the box like this). You can find a video that talks about this below (watch from 8:30 – 8:50):

As well as steaming milk really well, the Calphalon’s steam wand only takes about 20 seconds to turn on and heat up. This is faster than most machines in the Calphalon’s price range.

Quality of Steam Wand: 8/10

Functionalities

The Calphalon Temp IQ can allow you to make pretty much any espresso-based drink.

The Calphalon Temp IQ has preset volumetric doses for single and double espresso (30 ml/1 oz and 60 ml/1 oz respectively).

The machine also allows you to pull a shot manually by holding down the dial in the 1-shot or 2-shot position. This allows you to make other black espresso drinks like lungo and Ristretto.

The Calphalon’s pin-holed steam wand allows you to steam milk to a variety of textures (panarello steam wands only steam milk to one specific texture).

All this together means that the machine can basically make any espresso-based drink that you want.

I should caveat this by saying that:

  • Although the machine can technically make whatever drink you want, the quality of the espresso in these drinks won’t be close to what you’d get in a coffee shop.
  • The drinks that you can make will be restricted by your skill with the steam wand.

Although there are espresso machines that can make whatever drink you want with no effort or skill on your part, these start at around three times the price of the Calphalon (see my comparison of the Breville Barista Touch vs Oracle Touch for more information on these types of machines).

A machine the price of the Calphalon being able to make as many drinks as it can is impressive.

Functionalities Rating: 8/10

Ease of Use and Cleaning

The Calphalon Temp IQ is very easy to use and keep clean, even for beginners. It has clearly been designed to be as easy to use as possible, with these convenience features sometimes detracting from the quality of espresso that the machine can make.

Ease of Making Espresso

You can pull a decent shot with zero skill or espresso-making experience with the Calphalon thanks to its use of a pressurized portafilter basket.

The Calphalon was clearly designed with the beginner espresso maker in mind.

This is particularly apparent by the fact that the machine uses pressurized portafilter baskets only. 

Pressurized portafilter baskets have a singular hole in their bottom (the alternative to this is non-pressurized portafilter baskets that have hundreds of tiny holes in their bottom).

The red circle shows the pressurized portafilter’s single hole in its bottom

The Calphalon’s use of a pressurized portafilter basket means that you can make a decent espresso with it even if you use pre-ground coffee or your tamping is not level.

The single hole in the bottom of the basket acts as a bottleneck for your brewing water so it extracts your coffee evenly even if with noob-level grinding and tamping.

Espresso machines that use non-pressurized portafilters will not be so forgiving and will produce sour shots if your tamp and grind are poor.

Bear in mind that the downside of pressurized portafilters is that while it’s easy to make an ok espresso with them, it’s impossible to make a great espresso with them.

Espresso nerds wouldn’t be seen dead brewing with a pressurized portafilter, however, they’re great for beginners who don’t want to commit to an expensive coffee grinder or buy fresh, specialty beans regularly.

The fact that the Calphalon only comes with pressurized portafilters can be annoying if you want to step up your espresso game. 

Ideally, you want a machine with both types of baskets so you can still make decent espresso as a beginner but make better espresso as you get more comfortable with the process.

The Calphalon Temp IQ espresso machine has a very simple control panel, powered by a dial. All the settings that the machine has been labeled clearly as you can see below.

I like the fact that all the options are labelled in plain English rather than with vague symbols

The machine is “automatic” meaning that it dispenses the correct amount of water in every shot.

In short, you do not need to be a barista or have an expensive grinder to make a decent espresso from this machine. The features that make the machine easy to use for a beginner also cap how good an espresso it can make in the hands of an expert.

Ease of Using the Steam Wand

The Calphalon’s steam wand is slightly harder to use than machines with a panarello steam wand but rewards this learning curve with the ability to steam milk really well.

Unlike with their espresso brewing system, Calphalon has not made their steam wand as beginner-friendly as possible. Instead, they have sacrificed some ease of use in order to allow the machine to make really good steamed milk.

I have the Breville Barista Pro which also uses a pin-holed steam wand, and it took me about ten “practice steams” before I could steam milk consistently well.

I can now make far better-steamed milk than you ever could with a panarello steam wand, so the small learning curve is definitely worth it in my book.

The Calphalon’s combination of an easy-to-use espresso brewer with a high-quality steam wand makes it particularly suitable for people who want an espresso machine more for milk-based drinks than for black espresso.

Ease of Cleaning

The Calphalon has some clever little design features that make it easy to keep the machine clean. The only challenging part of keeping the machine clean and functioning well is remembering to descale it.

Daily Cleaning

The Calphalon’s drip tray has two dedicated drawers, one to sweep any spilled coffee grounds into and one to purge your steam wand into. You can see a video showcasing this below (watch from 2:00-2:10).

This helps to make the little bit of cleaning you need to do after making a coffee as easy as possible.

The only other daily cleaning that the machine needs are:

  • Wiping any coffee grounds off its group head
  • Wiping milk residue off the outside of the steam wand
  • Knocking the espresso puck out of the portafilter in the bin

Unfortunately, the machine does not have a three-way solenoid valve which means that your coffee pucks might be a bit of a soupy mess when you knock them out.

Most machines with these three-way solenoid valves are significantly more expensive than the Calphalon, so I feel bad about docking it points for not having one.

What Parts Of The Machine Are Removable and Dishwasher Safe?

All the components of the machine that come into direct contact with coffee, milk, or water are removable with the exception of the milk wand. 

You can easily clean these removable parts in the sink or dishwasher

The milk wand is still very easy to clean (despite not being removable) as setting it to dispense hot water will clean it from the inside.

You then just need to give the outside of the wand a wipe to clean it thoroughly.

The table below shows what parts of the machine are dishwasher safe:

Component Removable Dishwasher Safe
Drip tray lid
Yes
Yes
Drip tray
Yes
No
Water Tank
Yes
No
Portafilter
Yes
No
Portafilter basket
Yes
Yes
Milk wand
No
No

The large number of removable parts of this machine makes it easier than most to clean up.

Ease of Descaling

Calphalon recommends that you descale the machine’s brew head and milk wand every 4-6 months.

The machine has a descaling mode that is activated by pressing the on/off button four times. 

The “on” light and the “ready” light will flash simultaneously when it is in descale mode.

The machine will then run a liter of water (which should have a descaling solution in it) through the group head and a liter of water through the steam wand. This process takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Unfortunately, the machine does not tell you when it needs to be descaled. You need to remember to do this.

Ease of Use and Cleaning Rating: 8/10

Design and Build Quality

The Calphalon Temp IQ has a lot of very annoying design flaws. I particularly don’t like how hard it is to find replacement parts for the machine.

External Build Quality

The machine has a decent exterior build quality with the front of the machine being made from metal but its sides and the top surface being made from plastic

The machine’s drip tray is made from plastic which is annoying as it means you cannot put it in the dishwasher.

The worst part of the machine is its portafilter. It’s terrible for three reasons:

  • Its spouts are so wide that you cannot brew into an espresso shot glass without espresso dribbling down the outside of the glass
  • The portafilter’s head is attached to its handle with glue, rather than being nailed in. When the portafilter head gets hot from brewing, this glue will melt and the head will detach from the handle
  • The portafilter attaches to the brew head with three prongs. This is a very unusual design meaning that you will struggle to find a replacement portafilter if your current one breaks (and due to its poor design its chances of breaking at some point are high).

The Calphalon’s tamp is also really plasticky and lightweight, but in fairness, most espresso machines skimp on their tamp.

Internal Build Quality

The machine’s interior build quality is good.

Its thermoblock heating system means that it can go from off to being ready to brew in about 25 seconds and can switch from pulling a shot to steaming milk in about 15 seconds.

This is faster than most similarly priced espresso machines.

The only downside with the Calphalon’s internal build is that it’s missing an OPV. 

I think that Calphalon chose to omit an OPV because this machine is aimed at a beginner/casual market where people are likely to brew with pre-ground coffee rather than freshly ground (this also explains why the machine does not come with a non-pressurized portafilter basket.

Any Known Technical Issues

The only technical issue with the machine that I could find during my research was that some units have a tendency to leak from the valve where their water tank connects to the body of the machine.

”The first machine was leaking water out the back we had only had it for four days. Returned it to Amazon and got a new one and now this one is also leaking and won’t shut off.”

Amazon review, January 2023

I could only find three reports of this from over three thousand reviews on Amazon, which makes me think it’s not too common an issue.

Lots of machines with removable water tanks (espresso machines or otherwise) can have this problem. 

Fortunately, Calphalon offers a three-year warranty on the machine (although several have said that their customer support is very unresponsive) so if this happens to you then you can try to get a replacement as it doesn’t seem to affect too many units.

Design and Build Quality Rating: 5/10

Value For Money

The Calphalon Temp IQ is good value for money, however, there are better machines out there for a similar price.

The Calphalon Temp IQ is priced about right. 

Its high-quality steam wand puts it a level above entry-level machines, and more expensive machines tend to make better espresso than it.

I have to dock the Calphalon one mark for its value for money because of the difficulty involved in finding replacement parts for it.

If one part breaks, such as the portafilter, then you might have to replace the whole machine or wait a while for its replacement parts to become available.

Value for Money Rating: 7/10

Should I Buy the Calphalon Temp IQ With a Built-in Grinder?

I wouldn’t recommend the Calphalon Temp IQ with a built-in grinder at all.

The Calphalon’s built-in grinder is really annoying to use because it has no way of grinding out a fixed dose.

This means that you need to either guess your dose or measure out each dose individually with a separate scale for every shot you pull.

This alone changes the Calphalon Temp IQ from an easy machine to use to an unnecessarily cumbersome one.

You are far better off buying the version of the machine without a built-in grinder and then getting a separate grinder that can grind fixed doses.

Product Alternative: Breville Bambino

The Breville Bambino costs the same as the grinder-less version of the Calphalon Temp IQ but is better than it in the following ways:

  • It makes better espresso as it has an OPV so can brew with finer ground coffee
  • It’s easier to find after-market parts for the Breville Bambino than the Calphalon Temp IQ
  • Breville’s customer support is better than Calphalon’s
  • The Breville Bambino comes with pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets.

I’d therefore strongly recommend the Breville Bambino over the Calphalon Temp IQ.

MUCH better than the Calphalon Temp IQ
Breville Bambino
$299.95
The Breville Bambino can make better espresso than the similarly priced Calphalon Temp IQ thanks to its inclusion of an over-pressure valve.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/02/2024 10:16 pm GMT

Final Verdict

Although the Calphalon Temp IQ is not a bad espresso machine, the Breville Bambino is a better machine at the same price.

MUCH better than the Calphalon Temp IQ
Breville Bambino
$299.95
The Breville Bambino can make better espresso than the similarly priced Calphalon Temp IQ thanks to its inclusion of an over-pressure valve.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/02/2024 10:16 pm GMT

For more information on the Breville Bambino please see my comparison of the Breville Bambino vs Breville Bambino Plus.

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