Solis Barista Perfetta: New King Of Budget Espresso Makers?
There is a mid-range espresso machine market for coffee lovers who want good-quality espresso without the hassles of owning a prosumer espresso machine. Sage Appliances and Delonghi have long dominated this space, but now there’s a new kid on the block: the Solis Barista Perfetta.
We tested it out to find out how it stacked against the more established competition and were very impressed. The Perfetta is even packing a few perks the other brands don’t offer. Keep reading this review for all the details.
Summary: The Solis Barista Perfetta
- Easy-to-use automatic espresso machine
- Thermoblock heater, pressure gauge, professional steam wand
- Stainless steel exterior with a compact footprint
Two programmable shots, a legit pressure gauge, and some basic PID control will help you on your way to becoming a seasoned home barista.– Customer
The Full Solis Barista Perfetta Review
Solis is a Swiss company that has been manufacturing home appliances for over 100 years, but the Perfetta is their first foray into home espresso makers. While it’s clear that they’ve taken inspiration from Sage in design, the Solis Barista Perfetta espresso machine is more than it appears – and a worthy first offering from the company.
Before we start, note that the Solis Barista Perfetta is sometimes called the Solis Barista Perfetta Plus Espresso Machine. These are the same; there is only one model of this espresso machine.
Brewing Capacity – 4/5
The Solis Barista Perfetta is a compact, elegant machine enabling espresso beginners and experts alike to brew coffee to their taste. It has the brewing capacity to produce outstanding espresso with enough easy-to-use features that even novices can produce tasty results.
The Perfetta uses a thermoblock heating element, as do most domestic espresso machines in this price range.
Solis Barista is equipped with a PID temperature controller, the best method for achieving accurate and precise brewing temperatures.
Professional machines use a boiler rather than a thermoblock, but a thermoblock has certain advantages for home users. For starters, it heats up very fast, reaching brewing temperature in as little as 40 seconds. Although, in my tests, letting it sit for 5 minutes after the first warm-up time improved temperature stability and resulted in excellent espresso. Thermoblocks are also more energy efficient, more compact, easier to maintain, and faster to swap between brewing and milk steaming.
Portafilter And Baskets
The Solis Barista Perfetta espresso machine has a 54 mm diameter portafilter. While smaller than the commercial-standard 58 mm, it is large enough to accommodate a double shot dose of up to about 18 g. And because Sage espresso machines also use 54 mm portafilters, many affordable after-market accessories are available.
It comes with FIVE different filter baskets, a testament to Solis’s desire to appeal to beginners and experts alike. You get pressurized and non-pressurized double and single shot baskets, plus a basket for brewing with ESE pods.
Experienced users favour non-pressurized baskets. With proper puck prep, they yield the sweetest and best-extracted espresso. However, beginners will love the forgiving nature of pressurized filter baskets. Even without a quality espresso grinder or perfect preparation, you can still produce a rich, crema-topped espresso shot. They are even compatible with pre-ground coffee.
There are a few aspects of this machine that espresso experts will appreciate, some of which aren’t found on competitor models. For example, it has an adjustable brew temperature to adapt it according to your coffee beans’ origin and roast level.
A front-and-centre pressure gauge lets you monitor extraction pressure, a key variable for producing a consistent and delicious custom cup of espresso. Many espresso machines in this price range either lack a pressure gauge or have one that is mostly for show. But in the Perfetta, it is correctly installed in the group head and yields the same reliable results you get from expensive machines.
Finally, the Perfetta offers an automatic pre-infusion stage. This low-pressure stage before extraction minimizes channelling and compensates for errors in puck prep, leading to better-tasting espresso (1).
Channeling affects extraction because as the water flows unevenly through the coffee bed, it under-extracts the higher-density areas while over-extracting the lower-density spots.
This pre-infusion is particularly useful if you’re brewing with preground coffee. Unfortunately, the duration and pressure are fixed, so it’s not a variable you can tinker with in your quest for the perfect cup of espresso.
It’s Not All Sunshine And Roses
The biggest downside to this model is the amount of plastic in the group head. While this has obvious repercussions regarding build quality, the bigger issue is poor temperature stability. The lower thermal conductivity of plastic makes it difficult to maintain brew temperature, which can yield under-extracted shots that may taste sour or watery.
The top of this machine is designed to act as a cup warmer, but it is not very effective. I’m guessing this is for the same reason: too much thermally insulating plastic inside. You’re better off just filling your cup with hot water to warm it up.
Ease of Use – 4/5
This machine is designed to be usable by espresso beginners, so it has a few special features that make it simple to operate. Indeed, it was awarded a Red Dot Design Award in 2020 for its user-friendly design (2). It’s a great choice as a first espresso machine, requiring only slightly more skill and effort than a Nespresso or super-automatic espresso machine.
The Solis Barista Perfetta is an automatic espresso machine, which means you can program the two buttons on the front to your desired extraction volume. It comes pre-programmed with a 30 mL single shot and a 60 mL double shot, but you can adjust those volumes to your taste up to 300 mL.
Once programmed, pulling a shot is as easy as pressing a button; you don’t need to worry about shot timing.
I already mentioned that the pressurized filter baskets make this machine easy for beginners, but the basket for ESE pods makes it even easier. In fact, with a programmed shot volume and ESE pod, it essentially becomes a super-automatic espresso machine – if you don’t want steamed milk – though the flavour won’t be as good as using freshly ground espresso beans.
Other User-Friendly Perks
Two additional excellent features set the Solis Barista Perfetta espresso machine apart from competitor models. First, there’s the automatic cooling purge. After steaming milk, the machine automatically flushes the thermoblock with fresh cold water to quickly transition to brew temperature. Second, the steam wand doubles as a hot water function, making it easy to get water for brewing tea or preparing an Americano.
Milk Frothing – 3.5/5
The Solis Barista Perfetta Plus has a proper professional steam wand, an excellent step up from the Pannarello-style wands found on many home models. While Pannarello wands make it easy to prepare airy milk froth, making proper silky microfoam with those systems is nearly impossible (3). With the Perfetta, you can make beautiful steamed milk suitable for pouring latte art, but it will take a little practice to master the single-hole manual steam wand.
The steam wand is double-walled, so the exterior stays cool to the touch while you’re steaming. It rotates 360 degrees, so finding a comfortable position when frothing is easy.
Espresso machines with thermoblocks will never match the steam function of those with boilers. The steam is wetter, and the pressure is not as high. But for the average home user, these minor quibbles essentially go unnoticed. It might take a few extra seconds to prepare your latte.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
A nice perk of domestic espresso machines is that they require far less maintenance than their prosumer and commercial counterparts. Because the Solis Barista Perfetta lacks a boiler, the limescale build-up is much less of a concern, especially if you’re using filtered water. And since this model includes a Brita water filter, you might as well!
The espresso machine has a 3-way solenoid valve, a feature more common in higher-end machines. The 3-way solenoid releases excess pressure in the group, avoiding sloppy pucks or messy sprays when you unlock the portafilter.
The water reservoir is a massive 1.7 L, an impressive feat for a compact machine. For comparison, Sage Bambino has a 1.3 L tank, and the Delonghi Dedica’s is just 1 L. If you drink a lot of coffee, you’ll appreciate not having to do constant refills.
On the other hand, the drip tray is very tiny, both in volume and surface. It barely fits two demitasse espresso cups, and I usually had to empty it after every two milk-based drinks. Removing and emptying is easy, so this isn’t a big hassle. But you might want to consider frequent trips to the sink when deciding where to locate your machine in your kitchen.
Build Quality – 3/5
Build quality will always be an area of sacrifice in a good espresso machine at this price point. It’s not poorly made, but copious use of plastic is an inevitable means of keeping costs low, and that’s why cheap espresso makers tend to have three to five-year lifespans. I was happy to see that the Solis Barista Perfetta Plus has a stainless steel shell that resists damage and looks great. But when I accessed the interior, there were plenty of plastic components.
A central selling point of this model is its small size, which makes it perfectly suitable for a wide variety of kitchen designs. This compact appliance requires only a small space, 19 cm wide and 37 cm tall. However, with the portafilter installed, it is a wide 32 cm deep. I think this was a design decision made to accommodate the larger water tank – a worthwhile trade-off, in my opinion. But you may think differently if you’re short on space.
The Solis Barista Perfetta espresso machine is available in silver, black, and a special edition blue, but colour options vary annually. The reasonably high-quality accessories add considerable value, including a 300 mL stainless steel milk jug and a hefty metal tamper. You won’t need to buy anything extra before starting your first cappuccino.
Things we liked:
- Includes non-pressurized and pressurized filter basket
- Programmable shot volumes
- Professional steam wand
- Attractive design with a compact footprint
Things we didn’t like:
- A lot of plastic parts inside
- Can’t adjust pre-infusion stage
- Removable drip tray is very small
Don’t Buy The Solis Barista Perfetta Plus If…
- You want more automation: One of the significant differences between the Solis Barista Perfetta Plus and its primary competition, the Sage Bambino Plus, is that the latter offers automatic milk frothing. If mastering a manual steam wand intimidates you, the Bambino Plus might be more to your liking (4). But you’ll sacrifice the pressure gauge and brew temperature control.
- You want a professional-grade machine: Do you prefer a proper boiler’s temperature stability and steam pressure? Want longer-lasting all-metal build quality? Consider the Gaggia Classic Pro. This semi-automatic espresso machine takes more skill, but it’s the most affordable way to bring a commercial-quality machine home.
- You want something cheaper: If you’re looking for the compact design and user-friendly features of the Solis espresso machine but with a more affordable price tag, you’re looking for the Delonghi Dedica. This coffee machine is significantly cheaper than the Perfetta, but it lacks some more premium functions.
The Solis Barista Perfetta surprised me with its array of advanced features. What initially appears to be an entry-level machine is, in fact, much more. It’s the perfect espresso machine for anyone starting their espresso journey because it can grow with you. It’s easy enough for a beginner to use but has the chops to produce higher-quality espresso as your skills develop.
- Stanley, Z. (2022, March 29). What is channeling and how does it affect espresso extraction? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2022/03/what-is-channeling-espresso-extraction/
- RedDot Design Awards. (2022). Solis Barista Perfetta Plus. Retrieved from https://www.red-dot.org/project/solis-barista-perfetta-plus-45185
- Gaggia North America. (n.d.). Steaming and Frothing. Retrieved from https://www.gaggia-na.com/pages/steaming-and-frothing
- Bryman, H. (2019, June 13). From Pro Scene to Home Machines: A Conversation with Breville Coffee Guru Phil McKnight. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/06/13/from-pro-scene-to-home-machines-a-conversation-with-breville-coffee-guru-phil-mcknight/