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Kenwood take a Retro view of coffee 

Continuing our series reviewing the array of coffee machines available, this time we take a look at a well made espresso machine from Kenwood.
Kenwood Retro Café espresso coffee machine

The Kenwood Retro is available in three finishes : red, silver and cream. Unlike many of the machines we've looked at, the Retro takes a very manual approach to preparing your coffee. Other machines we've reviewed attempt to correctly measure a perfect espresso. This then leads to complicated 'programming' options to allow you to alter that amount of water used. With the Kenwood Retro, you get none of this. Neither do you get any irritating beeps or other unnecessary noises or 'over-tech'.

What you do get is a very straightforward, easy to use coffee machine that delivers an excellent result. The amount of water is measured the old-fashioned way : you flick a switch to start the pump and when you have enough you turn it off. So simple!

You have the choice of using fresh-ground coffee or single measure ESE (Easy Serve Espresso) 'pods'. The system comes with adaptors for ESE pods and single or double measure ground coffee. The least expensive option is to use pre-ground espresso coffee, or grind your own beans. This option of course also gives you the widest possible choice of coffee.

For those of you that have some concern for the amount of rubbish we throw out, then again fresh ground coffee minimizes the waste. The grouts can be added straight to your compost bin (you do have one don't you!)

A perspex water container slides in out of sight behind the central column. There is no integral water filter option, so as we've said before it's best to use a jug filter to reduce issues of lime-scale build up.

Controls are 'retro' in nature with good solid chrome toggle switches and a central analogue dial temperature gauge. Fill the machine with water and switch on - when the water reaches the correct temperature flick the right-hand switch to 'coffee' and the 15 bar pump will force water through the coffee making a perfect espresso.

If your preference is for cappuccino then a steam nozzle is provided on the right of the machine. Place the toggle switch to 'steam' and the water is super-heated to steam. You then pull down on the steam lever to vary the pressure through your milk. With a little practice you can get the milk exactly how you like it!

The chrome rack on the top of the machine can be used for pre-warming cups.

When not is use the top of the unit has a storage area into which you can push the mains cord.

Of all the machines I've tested so far this has been the easiest to use - avoiding as it does unnecessary technology where a simple switch will suffice. It's also one of the least expensive machines on the market with a starting price of around £110 for the silver version, £120 for cream and £170 for red.

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