This is my Calphalon Espresso Machine review, my verdict on a mid-market, automatic espresso machine.
I have never owned this machine, however, I have owned several automatic espresso machines and I spent a whole day researching this machine online.
I did this research by watching product demonstrations of it on YouTube, looking up people’s verdicts of the machine on Facebook and Reddit, and reading the machine’s instruction manual.
Should I Buy the Calphalon Espresso Machine?
I would recommend buying the Calphalon Espresso Machine if you have never owned an automatic espresso machine and you want something that can make good espresso without too much fine-tuning from your end.
If you are going to buy the Calphalon Temp IQ Espresso machine then I would recommend getting the model that does not have a built-in grinder.
The grinder on this machine is poor and drags the overall quality of the machine down. You are much better off getting the grinderless version of this machine (it is close to half the price of the version with a grinder) and then buying a separate grinder.
Other than the grinder, the machine is of good quality for the price and has clearly been specifically designed to be as user-friendly as possible for those who have little experience using an automatic machine.
The steam wand can take a bit of time to master, but this is true of steam wands in general.
The Calphalon Temp IQ Espresso Machine is an automatic espresso machine.
This means that you need to load up the machine with a new dose of coffee for every espresso that you make (you load up a portafilter which you then attach to the machine). The machine then pours through the water for you.
The machine allows you to make single and double espresso, as well as having a steam wand to froth milk.
The table below shows the product specifications of the two models of Calphalon Temp IQ Espresso Machine:
|Specification||Calphalon Temp IQ Espresso Machine without Grinder||Calphalon Temp IQ Espresso Machine with Grinder|
|Width||13.9 inches||17.7 inches|
|Depth||11.6 inches||16.1 inches|
|Height||15.3 inches||15.3 inches|
|Group head diameter||58 mm||58 mm|
|Heating System||Thermoblock with PID||Thermoblock with PID|
|Pump||15 bar Italian pump||15 bar Italian pump|
|Over Pressure Valve||No||No|
|Steam wand||Yes (single nozzle)||Yes (single nozzle)|
|Built-in coffee grinder||No||Yes (burr grinder – 30 settings)|
|Water tank size||2.0 litres (enough for 40 double espressos)||2.8 litres (enough for 56 double espressos)|
|Accessories||Stainless steel milk pitcher, plastic tamper||Stainless steel milk pitcher, plastic tamper|
|Filter baskets||1 Cup and 2 Cup Dual-Wall||1 Cup and 2 Cup Dual-Wall|
|Do I recommend this item?||Yes||No|
|Buy on Amazon||Check the latest price||Check the latest price|
Let’s now take a closer look at how the Calphalon Temp IQ fares against the following four categories:
- Ease of Use
- Ease of Cleaning
- Design and Build Quality
The Calphalon Temp IQ’s excellent internal build quality means that it has sufficient temperature, pressure and volumetric control to create a good espresso.
However, the fact that it does not come with scales, a timer and a decent grinder means that you will struggle to make excellent espresso with this machine.
The steam wand and grinder on the machine are also disappointing. I definitely would not recommend the version of this machine with a built-in grinder for this reason.
Quality of Coffee
Before I evaluate how well the Calphalon Temp IQ makes espresso, I must stress that the quality of espresso that you make depends just as much on the quality of your grinder and ability to dose coffee accurately as it does on how well your machine controls brewing temperature and pressure.
Therefore I’ll be paying as much attention to how well this machine facilitates the successful grinding and dosing of coffee as I do to how well it achieves the correct temperature and pressure needed to make a good espresso.
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 proportional–integral–derivative (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.
No heat is lost as the water travels to the coffee, thus negating one of the most common problems found in cheaper espresso machines.
The Calphalon’s temperature control system is fairly crude. Although it will generate enough pressure to brew espresso, it does not offer you much control over pressure and has a tendency to brew with too much pressure.
The Calphalon Temp IQ uses a 15 Bar pump to create the pressure needed to brew espresso.
Espresso is meant to be brewed under 9 Bars, and higher-end machines use a 15 Bar pump in conjunction with an over-pressure valve (OPV) which ensures that the machine does not over-pressurize the coffee.
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 potential 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 channelling (where your water makes a channel in the coffee puck and all flows through that channel) more likely.
Channelling reduces the amount of coffee that is extracted when brewing espresso, resulting in a drink with a disappointing lack of body.
Many other reviews of the machine praise the fact that the machine uses a 58 mm portafilter and group head, saying that this improves its ability to control pressure and create even extractions when brewing.
Although 58 mm portafilters are ideal, I would rather take a smaller brew head but have an OPV as the latter does much more than the former to promote correct brewing pressure and even extraction.
In short, the temperature and pressure control of this machine is not perfect, but still pretty good for the price. It will allow you to make a decent espresso without too much effort but puts a ceiling on how good a coffee you can make with this machine.
The machine doses water automatically and is programmed to dose one ounce of water for a single espresso and two ounces of water for a double espresso. The machine does not let you weigh your dose of coffee, so you have no means of finely tuning your brew ratios.
The machine automatically doses water for you. It does one ounce of water when set to brew a single espresso, and two ounces when set to brew a double espresso.
The model of the machine with a grinder does not let you time or weigh how much coffee it is grinding for you. You have to eyeball your doses. This is a really poor design flaw given how important the coffee-to-water ratio is for espresso.
This is one of the big reasons why I would not recommend buying the model of the machine with a grinder. If you have a way of grinding up a consistent mass of coffee beans in each espresso then you can achieve some consistent brew ratios with this machine.
Steam Wand Performance
Unfortunately, the lack of an over-pressure valve affects the performance of the steam wand.
Many users report that the steam wand is too powerful to steam milk, and you end up creating far too large bubbles to make a good foam.
You can still make good foam with this milk wand, but it takes a bit of practice. If the machine could control its pressure a bit better then its wand would be a lot easier to use.
I also don’t like the fact that the milk jug on this machine does not have a thermometer on it.
A good way of measuring the progress of your milk steaming is by temperature (you should aim for the milk to be around 140 degrees Fahrenheit), but a lack of a thermometer on the milk jug makes it hard to do this.
Despite these issues, many users say that they love the steam wand, however, these tend to be people with experience with steaming milk. It seems that the over-pressurized wand is particularly hard to use for beginners.
Quality of Grinder
The quality of the grinder really lets the version of this machine with a built-in grinder down.
The grinder is sub-par for three reasons:
- Grinder Does Not Dose Coffee Automatically
The Calphalon’s coffee grinder does not have serving-size settings.
You need to be really precise with coffee doses when making espresso as the drink contains so little water. Therefore the fact that the grinder does not dose out the coffee for you is really poor.
The machine has no external timer or scale to help you dose out your coffee, you literally have to do it by eye. No one who takes espresso seriously would contemplate doing this.
- Grinder Does Not Have Precise Grind Settings
Although Calphalon’s grinder has 30 coarseness/fineness settings, users have noticed that there are large differences between each of these settings.
This makes it very difficult to control brew extraction, with just one notch difference in fineness changing your coffee from being too coarse to too fine.
A good quality espresso grinder should have very small differences between each set, essentially running from “very fine” to “as fine as you can physically get coffee”.
This grinder seems to range from “fairly coarse” to “very fine”. Most of the settings are unsuitable for espresso, and the large gulf between each setting makes it hard to find the correct one.
- Grinder Takes A Long Time to Grind a Single Dose
The Calphalon’s grinder takes around 30 seconds to grind one dose of espresso.
That. Is. Ridiculously. Slow.
You will struggle to find a grinder this slow, even if you opt for the cheapest coffee grinder available.
Despite these drawbacks, the fact that the machine uses a burr grinder (rather than a blade grinder) means it will create a more consistent grind than a cheap blade grinder. I would therefore use the Calphalon’s grinder over a blade grinder when making espresso.
Still, you are far better off getting a mid-market burr grinder than using the Calphalon’s one.
Overall Performance Rating: 7/10 (4/10 for the version with a grinder)
The Calphalon Temp IQ can make a good espresso, and a lot of the elements that prevent it from making top-tier espresso are there in order to increase its user-friendliness.
The machine’s grinder sucks, but since you can buy the machine without a grinder, this is not a huge problem. The steam wand also takes some practice to get used to it, but this is true of many steam wands.
Ease of Use
The Calphalon Temp IQ is very easy to use, even for beginners. It has clearly been designed with beginner espresso makers in mind and can allow you to make a good espresso even if you cannot be bothered to measure out your coffee and don’t know how to tamp like a pro.
Ease of Filling Machine
Both versions of the machine have their water tank fixed to their back.
The water tank is removable, but its long, slim shape means that it is hard to carry around when full without sloshing water everywhere. I’d therefore just recommend filling it up with a jug.
Given that the water tank is at the back of the machine, you have to lean over the machine to fill it up. This can be annoying if you have a limited countertop to cabinet clearance. The machine is 15.3 inches high, so this might be a concern if your counter-to-cabinet clearance is under 21 inches.
The grinder on the machine is very wise with a funnel feeding system so you aren’t at risk of spilling beans everywhere.
Ease of Making Coffee
The machine has a very simple control panel, powered by a knob. All the settings that the machine has been labelled clearly as you can see below.
The machine uses a pressurized filter basket in its portafilter which makes the machine very forgiving if your coffee grind size is too coarse or uneven.
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.
Ease of Using the Steam Wand
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the machine’s steam wand is a bit overpowered and therefore has a steeper learning curve than many other steam wands.
I do like the fact that the steam wand is on a ball joint, meaning that it can be easily moved around in the milk as you steam it. This gives you more control when frothing your milk and makes you less likely to scorch parts of the milk.
Overall Ease of Use Rating: 8/10
The Calphalon Espresso Machine is very easy to use and is great for people who have never owned an espresso machine before. It does, however, put a cap on its ability to make truly great espresso in order to be as user-friendly as possible.
Ease of Cleaning
The Calphalon has some design flaws that make it a messy machine to use. Although it is easy to clean, you will be frustrated by how often you have to clean spilled coffee from the machine.
Messiness of Machine
Unfortunately, the spout at the bottom of the portafilter (where the final espresso eventually comes out) has two holes that are further apart than a standard espresso cup.
Therefore, unless you use a larger coffee cup, you will have liquid coffee dribble down the outside of your cup and onto the drip tray, so this will need to be wiped down after every coffee that you make.
On a positive note, since the machine automatically doses water for you, you are not going to flood the coffee in your portafilter and have it dribble everywhere when you remove it.
The machine does have a tendency to sneeze out a bit of water when you change the setting from single shot to double shot. Make sure you have a cup ready under the group head when you do this.
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.
The milk wand is still very easy to clean, however, as it can be set to dispense hot water. This will flush out the inside of the wand, meaning that you 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:
|Drip tray lid||Yes||Yes|
A 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 descale 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 litre of water (which should have a descaling solution in it) through the group head and a litre 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.
Overall Ease of Cleaning Rating: 6/10
The machine is easy to clean, however, it is messy to use meaning that you will need to wipe down its drip tray lid after every espresso that you make.
Although the interior of the machine is well designed and built, some corners are cut on the exterior of the machine and the accessories that come with it.
Interior Build Quality
The machine’s interior build quality is excellent. The fact that it has a 58 mm group head, and uses Thermoblock and PID to heat water means that it mimics a commercial-grade espresso machine as far as its internal design and components are concerned.
As I’ve covered earlier, the grinder on the version of the machine with a built-in grinder is not the best and lets the rest of the machine down. Just avoid that model altogether.
Exterior Build Quality
The machine has a decent exterior build quality with the core of the machine being made from metal but its sides 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.
One known issue with this machine.
Accessories’ Build Quality
The portafilter and tamper that comes with the machine are both poorly made.
The portafilter’s handle is attached to the basket with glue. Since the basket is metal and comes into direct contact with hot water, this means that the handle detaching from the basket of the portafilter is a point of failure waiting to happen.
The tamper is just cheap, light and plasticky. I’d recommend getting a separate metal tamper if you buy this machine.
Build Quality Overall: 6/10
It’s a bit of a mixed bag here, but I do like the fact that the Calphalon has not skimped out on the parts of the machine that contribute most to making a good espresso. Its accessories are poorly made, however.
What Users Say
As of August 2022, the grinderless version of the machine has been reviewed 3,250 times on Amazon and has an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5.
Positive reviews of this machine focus on its simplicity and ease of use.
December 2021 review: “The machine has worked amazing so far and proved very easy to use after watching some of the instructional videos on YouTube. It is very easy to clean and the milk steamer has worked flawlessly so far.”
May 2022 review: “Solid machine, easy setup and instructions. It takes a few times to get your espresso shots right but eventually it turned out great.”
Negative reviews single out the machine’s overpowered steam wand as its weak point.
May 2020 review: “Unfortunately, the steam pressure on this device is too powerful for reliable foam and there appears to be no way to regulate pressure. Once I clean up the milk that has sprayed all over my kitchen, I’m left with a few tablespoons of warm milk with a dribble of froth.”
I would recommend buying the Calphalon Temp IQ Espresso Machine.
The machine allows you to make consistently good espressos even as a beginner.
I would definitely recommend getting the model without a grinder, as its grinder is relatively poor compared to the rest of the machine.
Product Alternative – Breville Duo Temp Pro
The Breville Duo Temp Pro is a similarly priced automatic espresso machine to the Calphalon Temp IQ.
Like the Calphalon, it is designed to make the espresso-making process as easy as possible.
One thing that I like about the Breville Duo Temp Pro over the Calphalon Temp IQ is that it has an over-pressure valve. This means that it is less likely than the Calphalon to cause channelling and its steam wand is a bit easier to use.