KitchenAid Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine w/Automatic Milk Frother Attachment KES6404 Review

KitchenAid Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine w/Automatic Milk Frother Attachment KES6404 Review

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Buy it at Amazon: KitchenAid Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine w/Automatic Milk Frother Attachment KES6404 [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact, small footprint, easy to dial in, good shot quality, automatic frother reduces effort for making milk drinks.

You’ll receive the espresso machine, automatic milk frother attachment, commercial-grade 58mm portafilter, plastic coffee scoop, manual milk steamer wand, steamer wand for the automatic attachment, four stainless steel filter baskets, a stainless steel milk pitcher, and a coffee grounds tamper. You’ll also receive an instruction manual, and two quick start guides one for the espresso machine itself and one for the milk frother attachment.

This is the espresso machine. It measures 14x” from front to back, 11” tall and 6” wide, so it’s a quite compact machine that weighs only 10 lbs. Across the front you have the control panel. The first button toggles the mode, this selects a one or two shot dose, this is the cleaning cycle, and this is the start and stop button. This gauge along the bottom shows the positions for inserting and locking the portafilter. On the right handle side you’ll find the attachment point for the steam wand or milk frother attachment. To install the steam wand, simply push it in the port until it clicks. The nozzle is rotatable 360 degrees so you can adjust its direction. To remove the steam wand, press the release button just under the port and pull the wand straight out.

This espresso machine has a matte black finish with silver trim, though to my eye, the finish is lighter than I anticipated and I would call it dark gray. The housing is also made of plastic, so be aware that it can be scratched and marred if something hits it. At the back of the unit, is a clear water tank with a handle that lifts out for easy cleaning and filling. The capacity of the tank is about 1 quart. The unit has a 40 inch power cord and most of it can be wound into the storage area under the base. There are two cable guides at the back so you can position the cord to the left or right side of the machine. There are also 4 rubber feet on the bottom of the unit to reduce sliding of the machine on your countertop. At the rear of the machine on the base is the power switch for the unit. At the front of the machine, you have a metal grill over a removable drip tray. The drip tray has a small red indicator float that pops up when the tray is full and needs to be emptied.

Let’s get the espresso machine ready. We’ll fill the water tank at the back of the machine, and it’s real easy to see how much water you have in there because it’s clear. Then when you switch it on, it will immediately prime the pump and start pre-heating, indicated by the flashing lights. When it’s done pre-heating the lights will stop blinking. Right now it’s in espresso mode and pressing the dose button toggles between a single and double shot. When changing modes, for example to steam, note that the machine will need to preheat again because it uses a different water pathway for the heater. The same is true for hot water mode, which also allows you to select a single or double shot amount of liquid to dispense.

The portafilter has heavy-duty build and weighs about 1 lb 5 ounces. You’ll notice that is has a flat bottom design with no protrusions allowing you to sit it flat on a countertop; this makes it a little easier to tamp your grounds flat and evenly. The handle is made of durable plastic though it isn’t rubberized. Inside the portafilter there are two channels that direct the espresso out of the spouts on the bottom in two separate streams. It comes with four different filter baskets. These two are single-walled and have two and one shot capacities respectively. The filters are marked with the style and dose size. These filters should be used with freshly ground espresso beans. The other two baskets are double-walled and you’ll notice that they only have a single pinhole on the bottom that lets the liquid through. This is because these baskets are pressurized and here’s what their markings look like. These filters should be used with pre-ground espresso beans that come in commercial packaging as it is more forgiving when your grounds aren’t a uniform grind size.

The 58mm filter baskets simply snap into the portafilter with a quick press. To remove them, just pull up under the rim until it pops off. Most folks will want to weigh their grounds when making espresso, as precise measurements help ensure consistency. For the single-shot filter, KitchenAid recommends 10-12 grams or espresso grounds. If you use too much, you may find it difficult to lock the portafilter into place on the machine. So I’ll give it a little shake to level it, then press straight down with the tamper and give it a slight twist at the end so the grounds won’t stick to the tamper. The recommendation is to tamp with 30-40 lbs of pressure and you should end up with a flat even surface.

Now let’s attach the portafilter to the group head. First, line up the handle with the portafilter icon on the left and press it up into the slot, then turn the handle to the right towards the lock icon to secure it in place. For a single shot, just place your shot glass centered below the portafilter. Then press the start button on the far right to begin pulling the shot. Your shot should start off dark and gradually get lighter and turn a golden color at the end. This KitchenAid espresso machine is the first consumer-grade small appliance to feature dual sensor water heating, measuring the temperature at intake and output so you get even consistent results and a smooth tasting espresso. You can see that the shot has a rich, thick crema on top.

To steam milk using manual steamer wand, pour about half a cup of cold milk into the milk pitcher, just to the bottom of the spout. Then set the machine to steam mode and let it pre-heat. Set a clean, empy cup under the steam wand, then press start. Some water will dispense through the wand initially, but steam should be produced within a few seconds. Once you have consistent steam, press the stop button. Then place the tip of the steam wand just under the surface of the milk and press start again. You’ll want to continuously adjust the position of the wand so that it sits just under the surface of the milk and creates a vortex to draw in air and create bubbles. When you have enough foam, raise the pitcher and sink the wand into the milk so that it can heat it up without adding additional air and bubbles. You can use a thermometer here and stop the steam when the milk reaches 140-145 degrees F or about 62 degrees Celsius. Make sure to clean off the steamer wand right after steaming milk, otherwise the milk proteins tend to cake onto the hot nozzle making it a bit more difficult to scrub off. You’ll also want to flush the nozzle with plain hot water after steaming milk to clear the line of any residual milk so that it doesn’t spoil or build up.

Now you can take your coffee cup, which, if you placed it on top of the machine, should be pre-warmed, thanks to the built-in glass warming plate, add your espresso, then your hot milk, and a dollop of foam, and you’ll have yourself a tasty cup of homemade cappuccino. I like to add a sprinkle of raw sugar, give it a little stir and enjoy. Mmm, wow that it really tasty.

This model is compatible with an optional automatic milk frother attachment, which measures 9” tall, 3” wide, and 8” from front to back. At the back is a clear milk storage container with intake hose. Note the tank can’t be installed if the hose is connected to the milk frother as there isn’t enough clearance. The same is also true for removing the container, so always remove the hose first before removing or installing the tank. At the front of the milk frother is a clear storage bin and I like to keep accessories like the coffee scoop and extra filters in there. To install the steam wand for the attachment, remove the storage bin and press the wand into the rubber port on the underside of the head. This attachment has three modes hot water, hot milk, and milk foam. Simply turn the knob on the front to the desired output. But note that the selection dial isn’t discrete so it is possible to stop somewhere between the modes, but this isn’t recommended as the result can be inconsistent. On top you have a foam quantity adjustment knob and you’ll notice that the knob is a simple screw that allows more or less air to be drawn into the flow and in fact it can be fully removed, for cleaning purposes. The recommended way to set your forth level is to tighten it all the way and then loosen the knob as you want more foam.

When attaching the automatic milk frother, note that there’s a notch at the bottom where the supporting foot will slide in. Simply align the connector to the steam port at the top and the foot to the slot on the bottom, and press in firmly until the attachment clicks into place. Then fill the milk tank at the back. For plain hot water, set the espresso machine to hot water mode and ensure the dial on the attachment is also set to hot water. Then press the start button to dispense the selected dose. For hot milk or foam, set the espresso machine to steam mode. I’ll choose hot milk on the attachment. Note that immediately after pressing start, you may get a splash of hot water from the nozzle, so I like to dispense into an empty cup and dump this out first. Then replace the cup and restart the mode. The hot milk from the attachment exits the nozzle at about 120 degrees F. For foam, set the mode dial to the cup icon, tighten the foam amount dial all the way, then press start. I find that the foam produced by the automatic milk frother isn’t as light and airy as what you can achieve with the manual steam wand. While the mode is running, you can adjust the amount dial on top, but open it too much and it will sputter so just be careful. It’s a bit hard to see here, the foam mode really produces about half foam half hot milk, so you can see here the foam layer is only about 1/2 cm, or ¼ inch. It is however, rich and silky. Like the manual steam wand, you’ll want to flush the attachment out with hot water after use. If there’s any leftover milk in the tank, you can simply remove the whole tank and the hose and store it in the refrigerator. If you don’t want to use the milk tank, you can simply place the intake hose directly into your milk container or any vessel of your choosing.

Overall, I really like this espresso machine, and I think if you’re not into doing fancy milk art and steaming milk by hand, the automatic milk frother does a nice job of helping you craft milk espresso drinks at home without much of a fuss. The machine is easy to use and has a few other features that I didn’t go over like the four-stage head de-scaling function, and customizations like the ability to change the amount of water used in each dose setting, select your water hardness: low, medium, or high, and also choose your brewing temperature: low, medium, or high. Shots are easy to pull and come out with consistent quality, if you use the pressurized filters, or hone you barista skills with the single-walled filters and perfect your milk art with the manual steam wand. Whatever your skill level or preferred effort to espresso ratio, this machine has got you covered.

Buy it at Amazon: KitchenAid Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine w/Automatic Milk Frother Attachment KES6404 [Affiliate Link]


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