A reliable machine, but an odd mix of excellent and substandard features. Before you commit to this one, you’ll want to be sure it can do what you want and need it to do.
Recommended for: A good fit for people who value form at least as much as function, and who don’t mind doing a bit of manual labor to create their favorite drinks.
Table of Contents
- 1 Overview of the KES2102 KitchenAid Pro Line Espresso Machine
- 2 Easy to Use, Easy to Clean
- 3 Pros & Cons of the KES2102 KitchenAid Espresso Machine
- 4 KitchenAid Pro Line Espresso Machine Review Conclusion
Overview of the KES2102 KitchenAid Pro Line Espresso Machine
Are you looking for a relatively inexpensive way to break into the world of specialty coffee drinks? Do you value aesthetic at least as much as raw functionality?
If you do, then you’ll be thrilled with our detailed KitchenAid Pro Line espresso machine review, but be warned: The KES2102 model isn’t for everyone.
While it boasts a striking design, you’ll find that some of its core features are exceptional, and oddly, others are completely underwhelming or missing entirely.
This is not to say it isn’t a good machine. It is, but because of the features it leaves off or implements poorly, it won’t be a good fit for everyone. We’ll go over everything this machine can and can’t do in the sections that follow, and if you’re okay with its limitations, then this model will serve you very well indeed.
In the US, Kitchen Aid is a well-known brand, and you may have some of their other appliances in your kitchen right now. If so, then you know they make good products, but it’s only been fairly recently that they’ve begun to venture into the world of espresso makers and competing head to head with the big names in the industry.
They’ve got a reputation for reliability, and while it’s true that there were some issues with earlier versions of this model (the KPES100 and KES2101), those kinks have been worked out in this latest product offering, the KitchenAid Pro Line espresso machine KES2102.
Be sure to closely check the model number before you buy to ensure you’re getting the Kitchenaid Pro Line KES2102 model, and not one of the older versions!
Combined with their impressive 5-year warranty, if you do opt for this machine, you can buy with complete confidence.
Form Factor, Footprint & Aesthetic
The very first thing you’ll notice about this model is how beautiful it is, and the aesthetic is a critically important part of our Kitchenaid artisan espresso machine review. It’s more than just striking, it stands out, and would make a conversation piece in any kitchen it’s placed in. Even better, it comes in four different colors! You can choose from:
The KES2102 is also not a space hog, measuring 12.4” x 12.3” x 15.6,” and weighing in at 29.1 pounds.
While it’s true that there are smaller machines on the market, you won’t have any particular difficulty finding a permanent home for it, even if you’re somewhat short on counter space.
For reasons unknown, KitchenAid has made this information incredibly hard to come by, but the side-loading water tank holds 57 ounces, and does not include, or make room for an onboard water filter. We’re okay with the absence of the filter, although that might be a strike against this model for some users.
The key advantage of having a tank with a built-in water filter is the fact that it virtually eliminates the need for descaling, and as such, cuts down on the amount of routine maintenance you have to perform.
On the other hand, there are two easy ways to get the same benefit: You can either use distilled water, or, if you’ve already got a water filter on your kitchen sink, then a second one in the espresso maker would be unnecessary in any case.
As power coffee drinkers, we were a little underwhelmed by the tank’s capacity, but we understand that it will be fine for many people. If you are a casual coffee drinker, and you have a smaller household, it should serve you well enough.
No Integrated Grinder
This will be a short section in our KitchenAid espresso machine review because as a semi-automatic machine, it doesn’t come with a built-in grinder.
Here, we feel that our KES2102ER review wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t take a minute to explain the difference between semi- and super-automatics.
Super-automatics are known for their convenience. They are true “bean to brew” systems. You load your beans, fill the water tank, push a button to place your drink order, then simply wait for the machine to deliver it to you.
As you might expect, you pay a premium for these types of machines. Semi-automatics offer the same basic experience for less money, and are capable of making any specialty coffee drink you can imagine, but the tradeoff is that you’ll have to do some of the work yourself.
If you’re interested in sticking with the same aesthetic as the KitchenAid espresso maker, you’re in luck, because the company makes a similarly designed grinder, which you can find in Amazon.
This model accomplishes the job of keeping with the same aesthetic, but it has one fairly major problem in our view. Stainless steel grinders tend to heat up when you use them, and can sometimes burn your grounds which will utterly ruin the flavor of any coffee drink you’re making. Our opinion is that you’re better off finding a good ceramic burr grinder, even if it doesn’t match your espresso machine.
If you’re new to the world of specialty coffee, and money is tight, you may want to consider a bladed grinder, but these are almost universally seen as being inferior because the size of your grounds winds up being inconsistent. Nonetheless, a bladed grinder is still better than using pre-ground, so it’s an option you should at least be aware of.
The reason all this is important is that the way you grind your coffee beans will dramatically impact the flavor of the drink you’re making. In general, the finer the grind, the more robust the flavor.
The Boiler System
There are some things we love about the KitchenAid Pro Line Series espresso maker with dual independent boilers and some things we’re mystified by.
On the plus side, the dual boiler feature of the KitchenAid is somewhat rare in this class of machine. The chief advantage of a double boiler system is the fact that you can simultaneously brew coffee and steam milk, and in the case of the KitchenAid, both are high-quality aluminum boilers, lined with stainless steel.
Having two boilers is highly convenient, and given that you don’t generally find many convenience features on semi-automatics, it makes this one of the model’s stand out features.
Having said that though, there are some things we don’t like. For example, there’s absolutely no way to change the boiler’s temperature settings. You get what you get. If the coffee the machine produces isn’t hot enough for you, there aren’t many good ways to fix it (we’ll go over potential workarounds in the “Cup Warming Tray,” below).
The other thing we were less than thrilled about with the KitchenAid’s boilers is the fact that they do not feature Thermoblock technology and as such, are somewhat slower to heat than most of the super-automatics on the market today. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but something to be aware of.
Telescoping Coffee Spigot
This will be another fairly short section, as the KitchenAid Pro Line espresso machine doesn’t have one of these.
That’s not at all uncommon on semi-automatics as most models utilize a portafilter, which dispenses the coffee from beneath the filter you manually load and tamp when you’re making each shot.
The big advantage of the telescoping spigot is that it allows the machine to accommodate a variety of cup sizes. Then again, machines that offer this feature also allow you to adjust the size of your shot. This one is quite limited in that regard only allowing you two options.
You can either brew a single (1 ounce) or a double (two ounces), and that’s it, which means that you’re not going to want to brew into a large cup anyway.
Note that if you have a “favorite coffee mug” and it’s too large to fit comfortably beneath the portafilter, there are two things you can do:
The Brew Unit
This is the heart and soul of the KitchenAid Artisan espresso machine. It’s what makes the coffee magic happen, but before we can say much on this topic, we should pause for a moment and explain the key difference between making drip-brew coffee and espresso.
The drip-brew machine you’re likely using right now relies on gravity to get the coffee from the grounds chamber and into the pot beneath it. Espresso makers use pressure, which is measured in bars, where one bar is equal to atmospheric pressure at sea level.
You need a minimum of nine bars of pressure to make a good espresso, and the KitchenAid’s pump (part of its brew unit) is rated for up to fifteen bars. All that to say that this model won’t have any problem making world-class espresso, every time you pull a shot.
From a practical perspective, using a semi-automatic like the KitchenAid looks like this:
Using your external grinder, you grind your beans.
Then, you select your shot size (single or double), using the appropriate portafilter, loading it with fresh grounds, and tamping to prepare your shot.
Once you’ve done this, you load the portafilter into the front face of the machine, place your cup beneath it, and press the brew button.
If all you’re doing is making a shot, you’re done. If you want to create a milk-based drink, then you’ll want to grab your frothing pitcher, fill it one-third full with milk, and begin using the frothing wand while your coffee is brewing.
We’ll cover the frothing wand in the next section!
The Milk Frothing System
There are two basic approaches to frothing milk. An auto-frother, and a wand-based system. This is another area we feel that needs some explanation in order to make our KitchenAid espresso review truly complete.
The chief advantage of the auto-frother is that it’s automatic and does most of the work for you. The downside is that you don’t have much in the way of control over the amount or quality of milk foam you get.
Wands give you exquisite control, and the machine comes equipped with one of these.
The downside is that they do require some practice and finesse to master, so don’t be surprised if the first several milk-based drinks don’t turn out quite the way you had hoped or planned. If you stick with it, you’ll soon master the wand and not only burnish your Barista skills, but be considered a Specialty Coffee Wizard by all your friends!
The other great thing about the wand is the fact that it allows you to get the milk as hot as you want it. With an auto-frother, you’re limited to whatever the machine gives you, but you have more flexibility with the wand on that front.
That matters, especially where this machine is concerned, because since you can’t adjust the coffee's brew temperature, you can boost it by increasing the heat of your milk when you make a milk-based drink.
Bear in mind, however, that specialty coffee drinks were meant to be enjoyed at temperatures somewhat lower than most Americans like their coffee. If you find that your drinks aren’t hot enough for you, the frothing wand will help you nudge the overall temp by a few extra degrees when you combine your ingredients, and we’ll cover another temperature boosting trick in the next section.
The Cup Warming Tray
Most semi-automatics don’t have a cup warming tray, but the espresso machine KitchenAid KES2102 is an exception, and we were glad to see it included because the warming tray is a bit of an unsung hero in the world of specialty coffee drinks.
We’ve already made mention of the fact that you can’t adjust the brewing temperature, and what happens is that when you dispense your coffee into a cold cup, you lose heat. If the coffee’s already not quite hot enough for you, then this will make the problem even worse, and the warming tray helps to counter those effects.
It makes a bigger difference than you might think, too. Our advice is to conduct a simple test so you can gauge the impact for yourself. Pull two shots. One into a cold cup, and the second into a cup you’ve had on the warming tray. You’ll be amazed at the temperature difference!
Of course, if your final output still isn’t hot enough for you, then as a last resort, you can always pop your finished drink into the microwave for a bit, but this is a suboptimal solution, and one of the reasons this machine may not be a good fit for you.
Easy to Use, Easy to Clean
Because the KitchenAid Pro Line espresso maker has no advanced electronics (no LEDs, no complicated menu systems, temperature gauges, or the like), it’s super easy to use. If you can make coffee in a drip-brew machine, it’ll take you about five minutes to master the differences this model presents you with, so there’s no learning curve to speak of here.
Again, as a semi-automatic, there is some manual labor involved in pulling shots and making specialty drinks, but it’s nothing you won’t be able to master with a bit of experimentation.
In a similar vein, cleanup is a snap, although there is slightly more to keeping an espresso maker clean and ready to go than there is with a drip-brew machine. You’ll find instructions on the various bits of maintenance in the user manual, but rest assured that there’s no real complexity there.
Pros & Cons of the KES2102 KitchenAid Espresso Machine
In our view, the biggest pros of the Kitchen Aid espresso machine are these:
Of these, the one that bears further discussion is the user manual. While short on technical details, it’s loaded with tips on how to brew specialty drink, and includes a number of recipes, making it a fantastic resource for those who are new to the world of specialty coffee drinks.
The biggest drawbacks are these:
The last item isn’t that big of a deal, but the first two should be considered as fairly major drawbacks.
As we’ve discussed, there are viable workarounds to both of these limitations, but there are absolutely going to be people who feel that if you’re going to spend nearly a thousand bucks on an espresso machine, you shouldn’t have to deal with cumbersome workarounds, so consider those limitations carefully as you’re weighing your options.
KitchenAid Pro Line Espresso Machine Review Conclusion
As you can see from our KES2102 KitchenAid Pro Line espresso machine review, there is a lot to like about the machine, but it does have some drawbacks you’ll need to consider.
It’s one of the best-looking espresso makers on the market, and as we said at the start, if form matters to you just as much as function, then odds are good that you’ll be able to live with the limitations we mentioned, in which case, you’re going to love this machine.
If you care more about function, then this model is probably going to leave you wanting, and there are more robust and capable machines out there that you’ll find a better fit.
On that basis, we provisionally recommend it.