Krups EA81 Review – Super Automatic Espresso Machines

An image of Krups EA81, a good starter espresso ​machine

Krups EA81 Super Automatic Espresso Machine

8 Total Score
KRUPS EA81

This machine has some excellent features, blended with some glaring weaknesses. It falls short of greatness, but could be a good starter machine for certain users.
Recommended for: A decent, but unexceptional machine for people new to the world of specialty coffee drinks, and power users who are just looking for the basics and the convenience of a super automatic. Note though, that even then, you’re likely to outgrow this machine fairly quickly.

Reservoir Size
10
Overall Brew Quality
6
Customization Options
6
Ease of Use
10
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An Overview of the Krups EA81 Pisa

Are you looking for a relatively inexpensive way to start exploring the world of specialty coffee drinks and leave the drip-brew world behind?  Do you consider yourself to be a power drinker, consuming vast quantities of coffee each day?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, then you’ll be intrigued by our detailed Krups EA81 review.  This is by no means a perfect machine and falls short of greatness, but for the right user, it could be a good starter machine.

We’ll go into more detail about who this model was designed for, and everything it can (and can’t) do, so you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision before you buy, because there are few things worse than spending hundreds of dollars on an espresso machine, only to discover that it’s not really the one you want.

Ready to get started?  Let’s jump right in!

Form Factor, Footprint & Aesthetic

The first thing you’ll notice about the Krups EA81 is that it’s an unassuming machine.  Dressed all in black, and made of ABS plastic, it’s not something that’s designed to stand out. 

It’s not that the machine is ugly, it’s just designed with function primarily in mind, and it’s clear that aesthetics took a back seat in this regard.  A few chrome or stainless steel highlights would make the design a bit more eye-popping, but this certainly isn’t a requirement in terms of making a great cup of coffee.

Dimensionally, the machine measures 19” x 14.8” x 11.2” and weighs in at 17.7 pounds.  While the dimensions are larger than some super-automatics, this is still a relatively modestly sized unit, and finding a permanent home for it should present no particular challenge, even for people with smaller kitchens and limited countertop space.

Reservoir Size

This is a big deal to us because we’re power drinkers, and as far as we’re concerned, there’s no such thing as a water tank that’s too big.  We tend to favor machines that offer a water capacity of at least 60 ounces, and this is exactly what the Krups EA81 gives you, so it gets two thumbs up from us on that front.

The top-loading tank is located at the back of the unit and is designed to accept a water filter (and you get one included with your purchase).

Use of the filter is optional.  If you decide to use it, you’ll reduce your reservoir’s capacity by about three ounces, and you’ll gain the benefit of less maintenance because you won’t have to descale your machine nearly as often as you otherwise would.

The downside is that replacement filters will set you back $20-$25 a month, which will, over time, substantially increase your total cost of ownership of the machine.  Plus, there are other ways to minimize your need to descale, including using distilled water in the machine or filtering it at some other point (i.e. – if you have a filter on your kitchen faucet, you won’t need another in the tank).

In the end, there’s no right answer to the filter/no filter question.  It comes down to what works better for you.

An image of Krups EA81 Pisa with a cup of espresso

Integrated Grinder

As much as we like the size of the water tank on the Krups EA81 Pisa, unfortunately, the grinder leaves us wanting.  This is the particular feature we had in mind when we mentioned that the machine falls short of greatness.  It has one aspect we like, and three we don’t.

Let’s start with the good.  The top-loading bean hopper has a 9.7-ounce capacity, which is well-matched with the size of the water tank.

An image of Krups EA81's 9.7-ounce bean hopper

What we’ve seen on too many machines is that they’ll pair a tiny bean hopper with a massive water tank or vice versa.  When that happens, it makes using the machine a study in annoyance, because you’re forever having to stop what you’re doing to refill one or the other.  That’s not an issue here, and we like that.

As a side bonus, the hopper comes with a chute attachment that decreases the hopper capacity but helps funnel oily beans into the burrs.  Most super automatic espresso makers warn against using oily beans, and you should still use them with caution, but with the addition of this funnel, you can experiment with oily beans without risking your grinder motor, so that’s a nice touch, but it comes with a catch.

If you use the funnel, it’s going to cut your hopper capacity roughly in half, which is going to create that size mismatch problem we mentioned just above.  It’s a nice addition if you’re addicted to Dark Roast coffee, but on the whole, we consider it to be a push.

Now, for the bad, and this might be a deal breaker for some.

First, it uses a stainless steel, conical burr grinder.  Stainless still isn’t terrible, but ceramic is better.  If we see stainless steel burrs, we prefer to see them on low capacity machines with smaller water tanks, because what can happen is that if you make multiple coffees back to back, the stainless steel can overheat.

When that happens, it burns your grounds and ruins the flavor of whatever coffee drink you had your heart set on making.  On machines with smaller capacities, your ability to brew several drinks in rapid succession is hampered, but on a machine like this one, with a generously sized tank and bean hopper, the stainless steel can work against you.

The other big item to talk about here is the fact that the Krups EA81 only offers three grind settings.  The industry average is six, which makes this outright bad, from our point of view.

Getting the grind right when brewing specialty coffee drinks is super important.  The more settings you have, the more you can dial into your particular flavor preferences, and three just isn’t enough to give you much freedom and flexibility on that front. 

This is the main reason we said that you might outgrow this machine more quickly than you’d like!

A third, relatively minor point to add here is the fact that this model doesn’t come with a bypass doser, so you can’t use pre-ground coffee.  You have to use fresh beans or nothing.

The Boiler System

The Krups EA81 features a single aluminum boiler, lined with stainless steel, which is certainly what we expected to see in a machine at this price point.

More...

Getting the grind right when brewing specialty coffee drinks is super important.  The more settings you have, the more you can dial into your particular flavor preferences, and three just isn’t enough to give you much freedom and flexibility on that front. 

This is the main reason we said that you might outgrow this machine more quickly than you’d like!

A third, relatively minor point to add here is the fact that this model doesn’t come with a bypass doser, so you can’t use pre-ground coffee.  You have to use fresh beans or nothing.

The Boiler System

The Krups EA81 features a single aluminum boiler, lined with stainless steel, which is certainly what we expected to see in a machine at this price point.

The main advantage that more expensive double boiler systems offer is that they minimize wait time when creating milk-based coffee drinks because you don’t have to idle while the machine shifts gears from brew to steam mode.

In this case, though, the wait time is quite minimal because the boiler features Thermoblock technology, which allows it to rapidly heat and shift gears.

It should also be noted that the boiler has three temperature settings (normal, hot, and hotter), which you can change and even program on the coffee buttons.  This is a big win because you’ll find the hot and hotter settings to be quite high-temperature indeed.

One of the biggest, most persistent complaints about espresso makers is that the coffee just doesn’t get hot enough for most American drinkers.  This is because specialty coffee drinks were meant to be enjoyed at temperatures somewhat lower than most Americans drink their drip-brew coffee.

Our recommendation with this machine is as follows:  If you’re pulling a shot of espresso, start with the “Hot” setting, and you should find it to your liking.  If not, you can always bump it up a notch.

An image of the telescoping coffee spigot of Krups EA81

When making a milk-based drink, brew the espresso at the “Hottest” setting with the understanding that when you add milk, it’s going to lower the temperature a bit.

Telescoping Coffee Spigot

This will be a relatively short section in our Krups EA81 review, just to make a note of the fact that it does indeed have coffee spouts that move up and down, and can accommodate cup sizes ranging from about 2.5” to a little more than 5”.  This probably isn’t tall enough to accommodate your favorite jumbo-sized coffee mug but should work for most users.

It’s also worth pointing out to people new to specialty coffee drinks that you want to adjust the spouts so that they’re sitting just above the lip of whatever cup you’re dispensing into.  Doing so will increase the amount of crema in your cup, which is a good thing!

An image of the control buttons Krups EA81 Pisa

The Brew Unit and Control System

The brew unit of the Krups EA81 is non-removable, which means that to clean it, you’ll need to use cleansing tablets about once a week to flush the system and keep it ready to work specialty coffee magic for you.

As to the control system, the machine only has eight buttons (including the power switch), so there’s not a lot to learn here, and the LED screen helps reduce what little learning curve there is to an absolute minimum.

Unfortunately, as an entry level machine, there aren’t a lot of options you can change or control, but there are a few pleasant surprises here.

For one thing, you can set an auto start time, so that the machine is all warmed up and ready to go when you roll out of bed in the morning, which is a nice touch not often found on entry-level machines.

You can also adjust the auto-shutoff time to taste and program the amount of water dispensed into your cup when making single or double shots of espresso.  Of note, however, is the fact that you can’t adjust the coffee ground when making your shot, which is a genuine disappointment.

A Few Words About Espresso

Before we talk about the pump, we have to explain a fundamental difference between the way that drip brew coffee is made versus how espresso is made.  If you’ve been around specialty coffee drinks and espresso machines for a while, skip to the next section, as you already know this stuff.  If you’re new, keep reading!

Drip brew coffee makers rely on the force of gravity to convey coffee from the grounds chamber into the pot below where you can consume and enjoy it.

An image of 3 cup of espresso

Espresso makers don’t do that.  They rely on pressure instead, and pressure is measured in bars, with one bar of pressure being equal to atmospheric pressure at sea level.

The magic number to remember is nine.  It takes at least nine bars of pressure to pull a great shot of espresso, and the EA81’s pump is rated at a maximum pressure of fifteen bars, which means that it’s got more than enough power to pull a great shot, each and every time you use the machine.

And now you know!

The Milk Frothing System

In the world of espresso machines, there are two primary ways a company can implement milk frothing.

One is to use an auto-frother.  This invariably includes a carafe you pour milk into and plug into the machine.  Press the milk/steam button, and the milk gets sucked out of the carafe, heated, and dispensed as a mixture of foam and steamed milk. 

New users tend to prefer this approach because it’s simple and highly automated.  There’s nothing to learn.

On the other hand…it’s simple and automated, which means that you don’t have any real control over the quantity and quality of the foam produced.

The Krups EA81 Pisa doesn’t use an auto-frother, opting instead for a conventional steam wand.

New users tend to be a little intimidated by this, but you shouldn’t be!  Not only will it give you an opportunity to burnish your budding Barista skills, but it doesn’t take all that much practice to master.

You can count on your first 3-5 drinks not turning out as well as you’d hoped, but after that, you’ll be a pro, and can impress your friends with your mad Barista skills.  What’s not to like about that?

An image of Krups EA81 Pisa's steam wand for milk frothing

The wand also allows you fine-grained control over not only the temperature of the milk but also the quality and quantity of the foam produced, which is excellent!

Pro Tip:  The steam wand also dispenses hot water, so although the machine lacks a bypass doser, you can still make specialty teas and drinks like hot chocolate.

An image of Krups EA81's passively heated cup warming tray

Cup Warming Tray

There are two things to say on this front.  First, is that the Krups EA81 does indeed have a small but functional, passively heated cup warming tray, and second, you should avail yourself of its use.

If you’re new to the world of specialty coffee drinks, then you may not fully appreciate the role of the humble cup warming tray, but it matters more than you might think!  Here’s why:

Remember earlier, when we said that specialty coffee drinks were meant to be enjoyed at temperatures somewhat lower than most Americans like their coffee?

That’s especially true of milk-based drinks, and if you’ve set your boiler temperature to the highest setting and it’s still not hot enough for you, then heat loss due to dispensing into a cold cup is the likely culprit.

To fully appreciate how big a difference this can make regarding the final temperature of the drink you’re making, try this simple experiment:

Brew two of your favorite milk-based coffee drinks, dispensing one into a cold cup, and the other into a cup that’s spent some time on the warming tray.  You’ll be amazed at the temperature difference!

Incredibly Easy to Use and Clean

Being a modestly priced machine with limited functionality undeniably plays a role in ensuring that the Krups EA81 is easy to use, but it would be a mistake to say that this is the only reason.

It’s clear that the designers put some serious thought and effort into making effective use of the simple LED screen, and this plays an important role as well.

With only eight buttons total, the EA81 likely has about as many, if not fewer buttons than the drip-brew coffee maker you’re using right now, and the presence of the LED makes them easy to use and makes it easy to understand what’s going on.

Cleaning is likewise a snap, and here, your primary activities will be:

  • Keeping the dregs box (on the left side of the machine) and the drip tray empty as needed
  • Periodic cleaning of the brew unit (use cleansing tabs about once a week)
  • Descaling as needed (very rarely if you use the filter, or fill your machine with distilled water, perhaps twice a year if you don’t)

That’s all there is to it, and all of those activities are fairly painless.

While it’s true that this model doesn’t give you fine-grained control over every aspect of the drink creation process, that’s relatively rare among entry level machines anyway, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re going to need to jump up significantly in the price you’re willing to pay.  On the whole, then, we regard this as a solid feature implementation for the EA81.

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Pros & Cons of the Krups EA81 

The Krups EA81 super automatic espresso machine is a bit of a mixed bag.  On the one hand, it’s incredibly easy to use, upkeep is simple, it doesn’t cost a ton of money, and it gives you the basics you need to make a broad range of drinks.  All of those are good things.

An Image of Krups Brand Logo for Krups EA81 Review

On the other hand, though, it suffers from:

  • coffee
    A stainless-steel grinder
  • coffee
    Only three grind settings
  • coffee
    Potential size mismatch between reservoir size and hopper size, if you use the Dark Roast funnel attachment
  • coffee
    No bypass doser

By themselves, most of the issues with the machine can be overlooked, with the one big, glaring weakness being the sorry number of grind settings.  Three is just half of the industry average and is, in our view, terrible, and we would not be surprised if this was a deal breaker for many would-be buyers.

Krups EA81 Review Conclusion

And that wraps up our Krups EA81 review.  As you can see, this machine covers the basics and offers enough functionality to give someone who drinks a lot of coffee all the tools needed to make a broad range of specialty coffee drinks.

While that’s undeniably a good thing, it’s got some serious shortcomings, especially where it’s sub-standard grinder is concerned. It’s still a decent machine, but its weaknesses do limit it, and we can’t, in good conscience, give it a full-throated recommendation on that basis.  

We would hate to recommend a machine, see you spend hundreds of dollars on it, then have you find that you’ve outgrown it in a matter of months.

On the other hand, with the design limitations in mind, if you can live with them, then it does make a decent, modestly priced starting machine that will enable you to create all your favorite specialty coffee drinks at home.  With those two things in mind, we give it a provisional recommendation.

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