ECM Casa V Review: Compact Machine, Top-Quality Espresso
The Casa V is ECM’s entry-level semi-automatic espresso machine. But don’t let that fool you into thinking this brewer is anything but top-notch. If you’re looking for an AFFORDABLE SINGLE BOILER that’s a few notches above the competition, this may well be your answer.
In this review, we’ll dig deep into the details to uncover why it’s such a top seller!
Summary: ECM Casa V
- Single boiler semi-automatic espresso machine with durable stainless steel build
- Easy access to over pressure valve for adjustable brew pressure
- Extra-large drip tray and 3-way solenoid valve to avoid a messy workspace
The easily adjustable pressure regulator is a good feature which allows me to compensate for a grinder with limited adjustability.– Customer
A Review of the ECM Casa V Espresso Machine
So, you’ve been shopping for an entry-level semi-automatic espresso machine? Then you’ve probably noticed a lot of similar-looking single-boiler models from brands like Gaggia, Rancilio, Bezzera, ECM, etc. But though they all share an outward resemblance, the difference is in the details.
Keep reading as we explore what makes Casa V stand out from the crowd. Decide whether one deserves a place in your kitchen.
Brewing capacity – 4/5
At $999, the ECM Casa V is one of the brand’s smallest and least expensive models. Still, that in no way prevents it from delivering quality drinks. This might be some of the best espresso machines you can get for under $1000.
It has a single boiler, so you have to wait for the brew boiler to come to temperature when switching between steaming milk and pulling a shot. But the brass brew boiler takes only a short time to heat thanks to the 1200 W heating element.
So don’t feel like it can’t handle a latte! In comparison, the popular Rancilio Silvia’s wattage is just 993 W.
The Casa V has a saturated brew group. As long as you’re flushing it correctly, you can expect remarkably stable brew temperatures. At its heart is a vibratory pump, which you’d expect at this price point. The pump won’t impact your coffee quality at all, but it is a bit louder than a rotary pump. This means that you can’t plumb this espresso machine to a water line.
People most often compare the ECM Casa V with the Rancilio Silvia, another entry-level semi-auto espresso machine with which it shares many similarities. The Casa V is a bit more expensive than the Silvia. Still, it has a couple of additional features that I think more than justify its cost.
The most obvious is that the Casa V has a brew pressure gauge. This is something not found on the Silvia or some other popular models in this class, like the Gaggia Classic Pro or the Bezzera New Hobby. Though you can’t play with flow profiling, the gauge is an excellent way to analyze how well you’ve dialed in your grind, dose, and tamp.
Another OUTSTANDING FEATURE of the ECM Casa V is the accessibility of the over pressure valve.
The pressure valve lets you adjust the brew pressure.
Often this valve is buried so deep inside that only technicians can access it. However, with the Casa V, it’s up top, right under the cup warming tray.
Typically, the factory setting for pump pressure is 9 bars, which has long been considered the benchmark for proper espressos. But as baristas experiment with new roasts and specialty coffee, it’s becoming clear that 9 bars isn’t set in stone. Just ask UK Barista Champion Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, who prefers a 6 bar extraction (1).
Maxwell has found that the lower average pressure over the course of the shot mitigates against channeling and produces excellent extractions.
By having easy access to the OPV, the adjustable brew pressure is another variable to play within the perfect extraction quest.
User Friendliness – 3.5/5
The ECM Casa V couldn’t be easier to use (2). Once you’ve sorted out your grinding and dosing, that is. It’s operated with four pretty self-explanatory buttons: one for power, one for coffee, one for steam, and one for hot water.
The only extra step to keep in mind is that you need to refill the brew boiler after steaming before you pull a shot. Otherwise, you risk damaging the heating element. This is common to all brewers of this style. So it’s not a mark against the Casa V in particular.
Milk Frothing – 3.5/5
The Casa V doesn’t quite have the super-charged steam power of ECM’s higher-end models. But that’s not a feature you’d expect in a single boiler machine of this size, nor a feature you’d necessarily want in something geared toward newer coffee lovers.
That said, it has plenty of juice to generate a silky microfoam for latte art or an airy cappuccino froth (3). And thanks to the high wattage heating function, it hits maximum steam power very quickly.
The steam wand is double-walled to stay cool to the touch, and the multidirectional ball joint gives you plenty of room to maneuver. Additionally, it doubles as the hot water wand. Compared with other models, it has a bit more clearance under the steam wand, a full 5 inches. It comes standard with a well-balanced 2-hole tip, but this is easy to swap out if you’re so inclined.
Build Quality – 5/5
If you’re buying an ECM espresso maker, one thing you can always count on is build quality.
ECM built their reputation on selling products that last, and customers are consistently willing to pay a premium for their reliability.
The Casa V is the smallest of ECM's line-up, a compact design measuring just 8.25″ wide. It's almost entirely stainless steel, including the mirror-finish panels, the cup warming tray, and the drip tray's interior. Many companies will skimp on the drip tray, using painted iron instead, but stainless steel ensures you'll never have issues with rust.
It comes with the same popular chrome-capped portafilter as the higher-end models and baskets for either a double shot or a single shot. The portafilter is the standard commercial size 58 mm diameter, which I always recommend. It makes it much easier to shop for accessories or mod your Casa.
Overall, while the ECM Casa V shares general design principles with many other products in its class, a higher level of attention to detail gives it the most refined look of the bunch.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
An added benefit to the all-stainless-steel construction is that this espresso machine is easy to clean and difficult to damage. A quick wipe-down will keep the exterior pristine, and thanks to the 3-way solenoid valve, the pucks are bone dry and easy to knock into a knock box.
The user's only daily maintenance is keeping the water reservoir topped up and emptying the drip tray.
For such a compact brewer, the water reservoir is a surprisingly large 101 ounces. So unless you're a heavy user, a once-a-day top-up should be plenty. To minimize future maintenance, I always recommend using filtered water in an espresso machine.
The volume of the drip tray is even more impressive. At 30 ounces, it's tremendous for a model in this class, and in my opinion, it's a huge perk of this model. You can pull shot after shot, with appropriate flushing in between, without worrying about a messy overflow.
Don’t Buy the ECM Casa V If…
You make a lot of milky drinks: Single boiler machines can make a great latte. But if you make a ton of them, you'll quickly wish you could steam milk and brew coffee simultaneously. In that case, you may want to spend a bit more to get the heat exchanger Technika or 969 Elba 3, or the dual boiler ECM Synchronika.
You want temperature control: If you’re looking to move away from the entry-level models, check out our ECM Classika PID review. It’s still a single boiler, but it offers more advanced features like PID temperature control.
You want a built-in grinder: If you don't have space or budget for a separate grinder, consider something with a grinder included. The Breville Barista Express is a famous option, or you could opt for a super-automatic like the Gaggia Anima.
When it comes to entry-level semi-auto machines, the ECM Casa V ranks at the top of its class. It's a bit more expensive than its direct competition. Still, I think it has enough additional features to justify the extra cost, especially considering ECM's well-earned reputation for quality and longevity.
- Prestidge, J. (2015, August 18). Pressure Profiling: The Key to Perfect Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2015/08/pressure-profiling-the-key-to-perfect-extraction/
- Grant, T. (2020, July 14). A Guide to Dialling in Espresso. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/a-guide-to-dialling-in-espresso/
- Makela, K. (2020, July 21). Steaming Milk – The Theory Behind Microfoam. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/a-guide-to-dialling-in-espresso/