Tickets now on sale for TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018 represents our first foray into the rapidly developing startup scene in the Middle East and North Africa, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to help identify and showcase the top tech startups in the region. Our premiere startup pitch competition takes place on October 3 in the Beirut, Lebanon.

Tickets to this inaugural event cost $29 and are on sale now, and we invite you to witness greatness in the making as the founders of 15 incredible startups go head-to-head for the title of Middle East and North Africa’s best startup. Buy your ticket today.

If you’ve never experienced a Startup Battlefield, here’s what you can expect. It all goes down in front of a live audience filled with entrepreneurs, distinguished technologists and eager investors. In three preliminary rounds — five startups per round — teams have only six minutes to pitch and present a live demo to a panel of tech and VC experts. The judges have six minutes after each pitch to ask tough questions.

Only five teams move on to the finals for one more round of brilliant pitches and more tough questions from a fresh set of judges. From that impressive cohort, the judges will select one startup as the winner of TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018.

The winners receive a US$25,000 no-equity cash prize, plus a trip for two to compete in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2019 (assuming the company still qualifies to compete at the time). Every TechCrunch Battlefield is an exhilarating, nerve-wracking experience and a joy to behold.

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA 2018 takes place in the Beirut Digital District in Lebanon on October 3. This is your chance to see the best the Middle East and North Africa startups launch to the world. And it’ll cost you only $29 to say you knew them when. Click right here to purchase your ticket.

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8 of the best juicers for your home, according to online reviews

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Image: pixabay

If you’re looking to do something to benefit your health, juicing could be a great place to start. A fresh juice allows you to get the most out of your fruits and vegetables, extracting vitamins and nutrients that would otherwise be depleted through other cooking methods. Not to mention, of course, they can be delicious and refreshing. 

If you’re looking to get into the home-juicing game — good for you! You’re doing something great for your health and will also probably save a ton of money on store-bought juices that can cost up to $12 per 12 oz. bottle. However, when it comes to making your own juices, the kind of juicer you use can really make or break your experience. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. To start, we compiled a list of the top-rated juicers according to Amazon reviews. 

Things you should know: Our list is comprised of both masticating and centrifugal juicers.

A Masticating juicer (otherwise known as a cold-press juicer) processes juice in a slower, quieter fashion, by essentially pressing the juice out of your produce. This method generates basically no heat, so you don’t have to worry about destroying any nutrients. 

A Centrifugal juicer uses a “spin” method of juicing, which is faster and usually a bit louder than a masticating juicer. It uses centrifugal force at a high speed to extract juice from produce. 

When choosing the juicer for you, the most important thing is to go by your own individual needs. 

Things to consider: 

Will you be juicing early in the morning when noise volume will be an issue?

Does a quicker or slower juicing experience better fit your lifestyle?

Do you care more about the number of nutrients than speed or the other way around?

Regardless of which type you choose, there’s one for you on our list. For our best centrifugal juicer, we chose the Breville JE98XL Juice Fountain, for its high quality, convenient wide-mouth chute, and outstanding reviews. Our favorite masticating juicer is the Omega J8006, for its quality and incredible versatility in terms of how many different things you can make with it. Our budget-friendly pick goes to the Hamilton Beach (67601A) Juicer, which is a great option for anyone who wants a solid juicer with all the necessary features without breaking the bank. 

Read on to see which other juicers made the cut and drink up!

Image: Breville

The gist: When it comes to quality juicing, Breville shines as a trusty manufacturer, which is why it’s no surprise the JE98XL model is Amazon’s Choice for “best juicer.” For a price significantly less than some other Breville models, the JE98XL delivers the same top-notch performance. Its extra-wide feeder chute allows you to pump out a full 8oz. glass of juice fast. We’re talking less-than-five-seconds fast. And with little to no preparation! Breville also claims that its patented Nutri Disc system extracts more nutrients than any other juicers, since it transfers minimum heat, protecting enzymes and allowing for maximum nutrient absorption. 

Stand-out features:

  • Centrifugal

  • Extra-wide 3-inch feeder chute

  • 850-watt dual-speed motor

  • Patented Nutri Disc juicing system to get maximum nutrients

  • Large capacity pulp-collector

  • 1-Liter juice jug with froth separator 

  • Overload protection LED

  • Safety locking arm

What Amazon users have to say:

Amazon user BeachBaby57 writes:

“I absolutely love this juicer, it is so fast to juice and simple clean up too. I line the pulp container with a plastic produce bag and put my glass directly under the spout so I have two less parts to clean. Using this system, I only have three parts to clean, all are easy to clean and dry. I have very little time in the morning, I can barely make it to work on time, but since clean up is so quick, I have made a juice every morning since I received this juicer. I was impressed at the speed of this juicer and with very little noise. (I get a lot of juice too!) I also like that this juicer does not take up a lot of counter space, it’s fairly compact compared to others I have researched. AND the price is extremely reasonable! A friend of mine came over while I was juicing and she was so impressed with this model that she asked me for the ordering information! In the past, she has had 3 different juicers and she said none of them compared to this one! Honestly, I can’t think of anything about this juicer that I would change…maybe it would be helpful if they included a juicing recipe book! Thank you Amazon for the quality product and the fast shipping!”

Image: BREVILLE

Image: omega juicers

The gist: The Omega is the creme-de-la-creme of masticating (slow-speed) juicers. Since it processes at a slower speed, you won’t miss out on any nutrients. You can juice anything from fruits and vegetables to leafy greens— but it doesn’t stop there. The Omega will also turn nuts into nut butter (homemade peanut butter anyone?), grind coffee beans, make pasta, frozen desserts, baby food… to be honest, we’re not sure there’s much it can’t do. Additionally, its slow speed method makes for a super quiet juicing experience.   

Stand-out features:

  • Masticating

  • Processes at 80rpm

  • Powerful gear reduction that’s equivalent to a 2HP Motor

  • Minimum heat build-up and oxidation promoting healthy enzymes 

  • Multi-use: can be used to make a variety of snacks and foods

  • Extracts the maximum amount of nutrients

  • Easy to Assemble/operate

What Amazon users have to say:

Amazon user Emily Waltman writes:

“… I have been juicing just about every morning for the past 3.5 weeks, and I have noticed a difference when using this juicer. While this juicer takes longer than the centrifugal force competitor, the pulp comes out very, very dry, and there are no chunks left un-juiced! It is also very easy to install, put together, and clean, takes less than a few minutes. I really like the suction cup feet on the bottom of this machine, it keeps it still while I am juicing, so I do not lose any juice. Also, I love the handle at the top of the machine, it is lightweight and easy to pick up and maneuver.
I love that this is more than just a juicer – you can make nut butter, pasta, and frozen sorbet, and so much more. So far, I have made a lot of frozen treats, all I do is put anything frozen in the tube, change out the juicing screen to the blank screen, an ta-da! Frozen sorbet, at the ready, the first time I tried it I made 3 different sorbets, frozen coconut milk, frozen strawberries, banana, and peach. Then I put in mixed berries too! It is so easy and fast, and tastes delicious, very similar to some of the water ice we get up the street – but so much healthier! Overall, I am very, very satisfied with this juicer!”

*Bonus Review:* To get a *thorough* idea of how to use and what to make with the Omega J8006, check out this review by Amazon user Phil Rosenbach (which is also possibly the longest and most detailed review we’ve ever seen. Hats off to you, Phil.)

Image: Omega juicers

Image: breville

The gist: To add another Breville model to the list, we’ve got the 800JEXL. Though it comes with a heftier price tag than the JE98XL, the 800JEXL is called “elite” for a reason. Breville endearingly refers to this model as the “Rolls Royce” of juicers, with its powerful 1000-watt motor and heavy grade die-cast metal body.  Like the JE98XL, it has a dual high/low-speed switch so you can switch depending on if you’re juicing hard or soft produce. This model’s “fast” speed setting beats the JE98XL at 13,000rpm, so the process is a bit quicker. In terms of overall quality, the 800JEXL is definitely top notch and great for any serious juicer looking to make a worthy investment.

Stand-out features:

  • Centrifugal

  • 1000-watt motor

  • Dual speeds: high (13,000rpm) and low (6,500rpm)

  • 3-inch feed tube that accommodates whole fruits and veggies

  • 1.1-quart juice jug 

  • 3.2-quart pulp container

  • die-cast metal body

What Amazon users have to say: 

Amazon user donna writes:

“ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!!!!!!! I have had A LOT of juicers over the years and this one blows them all away! it is super fast and pulp is super dry. you get way more than twice the juice! I juiced a lot of veg, 2 pitchers (that it comes with about 4 cups each) and the pulp container was not even half full, yet there was no pulp in the juice! I’ve even had the slow masticating juicers, this is better. easy to put together, take apart and clean!!!!! i love it in every way. and before you believe that juice from slow juicers is better for you, look it up, thats what i did, and its not as long as its done fast with a good juicer! I truly love this juicer in every way! I will never go back to the lower end ones (that cost about the same anyway, oh brother!) or the expensive slow hard to use and clean ones! Wish i had this in the beginning of my juicing ventures 20 years ago!!!!!!!!!!!”

Image: breville

Image: jamba appliances

The gist: If you immediately think “Jamba Juice” when you see this juicer, good call. It’s the brainchild of the widely-known juice chain. Since Jamba Juice knows a thing or two about juicing, they made sure to give this baby a *super* wide chute— three and a half inches wide, to be exact, which is the largest available of any juicer. This basically eliminates the need for pre-cutting. It comes with an impressive 1100-watt motor and two speed settings, so you can adjust speed depending on what you’re juicing in order to maximize juice output. The Jamba Juicer comes with a few little extra goodies, like a clean sweep cleaning brush and a recipe book filled with juice and pulp recipes. 

Stand-out features:

  • Centrifugal

  • 3.5-inch chute

  • Powerful 1100 watt motor with 2 speeds for maximum juice yield

  • 34 oz. pitcher with froth separator for foam-free juice

  • Comes with full-color recipe book with juice and pulp recipes

  • Easy Sweep cleaning tool 

What Amazon users have to say: 

Amazon user Kate C. writes:

“This is a gem of a juicer! I could not have purchased a better working, all inclusive machine. All the features I wanted without going overboard! Not knowing how much I would be using a juicer, I opted for a smaller price tag as they can run pretty crazy in my opinion. This one has a high & low optional switch which I mostly use the low juicing celery, cucumber, carrots, apples and some leafy greens. The wide mouth means I have to do very little cutting and prep, the juicer is thorough and i get very dry pulp leftover (which i’ve used in the puplp muffin recipe included in the manual). There is no extra assembly or dissasembly when I get it out of the cupboard it all pops together very quickly and comes apart easily for fast cleaning with the brush included. Overall I absolutely love it and definitely recommend it!”

Image: Jamba Appliances

Image: breville

The gist: We know, we know—another Breville model. What can we say? We can’t argue with quality, and we certainly don’t think quality should be an issue for those with less counter-space—which is why we give you the Breville BJE200XL Compact Juicer. The Breville Compact takes up far less space than other Breville models while still boasting the same juicing capabilities. It has a 700-watt motor and operates at a single speed of 14,000rpm. It has the same extra-wide 3-inch feed chute as the other Breville models, so don’t let its small size fool you—this thing can still take down whole fruits. 

Stand-out features:

  • Centrifugal

  • 700-watt motor

  • Compact design

  • 3″ circular feed tube processes whole fruit

  • Centered dual knife blade assembly

  • Stabilizing knife

What Amazon users have to say: 

Amazon user Pat K writes:

“I kept putting this item in my cart deciding between this one and the next higher version. My friend had the next size but she also has a very large kitchen and plenty of counter space, while me I have 1/4 of the counter space. After about a month in my basket I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did buy this compact version, it’s perfect for me. I make one container full and clean out the where the pulp is stored. It also stores nicely under my cabinet, which the other version would not. Since this is my first juicer, I’m not sure how ‘dry’ the pulp should be but to me it’s pretty dry. Not something that is bone dry but enough that I can probably make a small ball out of the pulp…mind you I haven’t tried it but may. I also juiced Kale and Swiss Chard I saw quite a bit of juice coming out. I did with the recommendation of rolling it up in a small tight ball and it worked. Not sure if it was because the kale and Swiss chard were straight from the garden to the juicer but I definitely did see juice coming out.”

Image: breville

Image: black+decker

The gist: For all of the citrus lovers out there, this Citrus Juicer from BLACK+DECKER is a little gem and comes with a super budget-friendly price tag. For those that are less interested in complicated concoctions and more interested in adding a fresh, citrusy treat to their day—this juicer is all you need. To use, just push your citrus fruit of choice onto the cone and let it get to work. The self-reversing cone ensures that you’ll get the absolute most juice out of your fruits by switching directions mid-juice. The large capacity pitcher comes with convenient measurement marks and will make up to a quarter-gallon of juice. You can even adjust the amount of pulp you let into your juice using the Adjustable Pulp Control. The container also goes from a container to a pitcher—when done juicing, just tip your container, pour into a glass, and drink up. 

Stand-out features:

  • 32 oz capacity

  • Convenient measuring marks on container

  • Easy-pour spout

  • Adjustable Pulp Control 

  • Pressure activated

What Amazon users have to say:

Amazon user Auntie Liz writes:

“This is an easy to use, easy to clean citrus juicer that I wish I had bought 25 years ago! It is versatile (will juice small fruit like limes or large fruit such as Meyer lemons and even relatively small grapefruit. There is an adjustment allowing a little or a large amount of pulp to go through with the juice. It is well made and requires only a small space for storage. I will be buying oranges by the bag to have fresh juice. Probably my favorite small appliance.”

Image: black+decker

Image: healthy juicer

The gist: For those looking to get the most out of their leafy greens, the Lexen GP27 is the way to *manually* do just that. This juicer is the solution for those that don’t want to lay out hundreds for an expensive masticating juicer, but also don’t want to settle for a cheap, crummy manual model. As the folks at The Healthy Juicer say, this thing was designed to be “simple, mobile, versatile, and easy to clean.” Simple is right. To use, just put a put a juice cup under the spout, place your greens into the chute, and start churning.  Cleaning this thing is a breeze, since all you have to do is unscrew the parts, rinse them off in the sink, and boom—you’re done. Thanks to its high juice-yield and cold-press technology, you can rest assured your greens will be nutrient-packed to the max. 

Stand-out features:

  • Masticating

  • Easy, manual hand-crank method

  • Maximum nutrients via cold-press processing

  • Sturdy, quality manufacturing

  • Quick and easy clean-up

What Amazon users have to say:

Amazon user Sherry writes:

“Love it, love it, love it. Why’d I wait so long??? I love everything about this juicer (except maybe the extra time it takes to make all that juice from the leafy greens, but you know what, it’s time well spent because it’s SO relaxing watching healthy juice being created as you spin the lever). I’m ditching my centrifugal juicer forever. I set up the base of this unit on my counter permanently which means about a 1 minute set up time (and probably 2-3 minutes to take apart and rinse off). Unlike the bigger, heavier juicers, these smaller pieces are so easy to wash and manage and store, light and small it all fits in a drawer and doesn’t take up half of my cabinet space. And it juices most everything. I make citrus juice, cucumber/celerey juice, etc. I get about 1 cup of spinach juice from those 1lb. containers, than I freeze the spinach fiber in tablespoon sizes and throw in my smoothies (especially good with bananas) or in my soups/stocks/eggs. As for the turning of the lever, you will turn it for a while, more than you’d like to in this fast paced society, but it is effortless and like I said, fun to watch the juice produce through the clear plastic cylinder. Time passes quickly. I imagine too that the more I do this the quicker I’ll become. It also pieces together with such ease and safety (so great for kids!!!)…”

Image: Healthy Juicer

Image: hamilton beach

The gist: This Hamilton Beach model is perfect for either those who are just getting into juicing or even seasoned juicers who simply don’t want to break the bank by spending several hundred bucks on a juicer.  It cranks out 800 watts of power and has a 3-inch-wide chute that you can fit whole foods into (for example, a whole apple), so you can spend less time cutting and prepping. All of the juicer’s removable parts are dishwasher safe, which makes clean-up super easy. Plus, it even comes with a handy cleaning brush.

Stand-out features:

  • Centrifugal

  • Extra-wide 3-inch chute 

  • 800-watt motor

  • Dishwasher safe 

What Amazon users have to say:

Amazon user Kate Bugusky writes: 

“I wanted a reasonably priced juicer to make sure I actually LIKED juicing first. I decided to go with this one based off it’s reviews, and I really don’t plan on upgrading any time soon! This juicer does a great job and it’s so easy to clean. I love that it comes with a brush to get the pulp out of the mesh part too. For anyone who wants to start juicing without breaking the bank, definitely try this one out.”

Image: hamilton beach

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Environmental crime is a huge invisible problem — IoT will expose it

Environmental crime is a strange beast.

It’s extremely broad – it spans everything from illegal wildlife trading to unregulated fishing to dumping hazardous waste.

It’s very lucrative – Europol estimates the annual value of transnational environmental crime to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

It’s mostly invisible – catching culprits in the act is challenging for authorities.

And on top of all that, enforcement of sanctions is difficult when accurate quantification of damage is nearly impossible  – many types of environmental disasters play out over a span of months or even years.

It’s a problem so big, that the police force of one of the world’s smallest countries is planning on reaching out to citizens to help them manage it.

31 million liters of hazardous waste

“It all started after the airing of the documentary Beerput Nederland. It mostly dealt with a Dutch company buying up 31 million liters of hazardous wastewater in Angola, and allegedly illegally disposing of it in the waters around Amsterdam,” Sander Huisman told me.

Huisman is manager of Shared Intelligence, a project the Dutch police force set up to involve more stakeholders in the fight against environmental crime.

The documentary brought to light the way Dutch authorities were completely failing to deal with crimes of this scale – even going as far as involving the offending company in the creation of new environmental legislation.

As one of the interviewees, emeritus professor of the technical university of Delft Ben Ale said, “[It seems like] the government is not here to protect citizens against polluting companies, but to maximize the profit of those companies.”

The documentary by Dutch filmmaker Wilfried Koomen brought to light how the Dutch government often turned a blind eye to polluting companies. Repeat offenders are let off with warnings instead of sanctions, and crimes like mixing fuel for ships with toxic substances are tolerated to coax more traffic into Rotterdam’s port.

Citizens should help out

Beerput Nederland led to a parliamentary inquiry into the matter, but it also led to personal indignation that prompted Huisman and a group of colleagues to start thinking of solutions.

“We started brainstorming about how we could hold on to and use that feeling to fight these types of crimes, and also how we could work with citizens to tackle environmental crime. The problem is that environmental crime is invisible a lot of the time. Perpetrators are committing an invisible crime that leads to invisible damage,” Huisman said.

At the moment, the police and other environmental authorities function reactively. “After we get a report, the crime has already happened, and all we can do is clean up the waste,” Huisman says. “So we need to find and identify this pollution earlier in the process.”

Using sensors and open data, the Shared Intelligence team wants to be able to act sooner and make the crime more visible. Not only for authorities but for citizens as well.

“We want to make the environmental quality of their surroundings visible to citizens, in their town or neighborhood,” he said. “And we want to give them the possibility to add information of things they’ve noticed or seen themselves.”

White swan affected by an oil spill in the Netherlands

Cleaning up the mess

The first step in the plan is to develop a network of connected sensors that can pick up different types of environmental crime instantly, transmit that to a central point, and thus help authorities to catch perpetrators in the act.

“At the moment all we can do comes after the act, we’re just cleaning up the mess. We need to identify these crimes earlier in the process. We want to be proactive, and we need everybody’s help in doing so.”

The second step in the plan is to connect more data sources, allowing citizens to more effectively report different types of crimes. Currently, the police is looking into the development of cheap sensors citizens can literally place in their backyards.

The sensors – which could range from robotic ‘eels’ that swim around sniffing for pollution to small chemical sensors – would constantly collect info about their surroundings, and pass the data on to a central point.

All these collected data would be collated in the dashboard and be publicly accessible to both citizens and the police. “The idea is that real-time information about things like the dumping of waste in water or pollution of soil leads to notifying police dispatchers.”

“This should improve authorities’ abilities to catch criminals in the act,” Huisman hopes.

Defining pollution

A big challenge they’re still facing in developing those sensors is one that’s probably well known to environmental police all over: What counts as pollution? What concentration of drug substrates in water is acceptable, and what points to a nearby XTC lab? “We’re still working on these problems,” Huisman told me.

Nonetheless, giving citizens access to sensors and data about their immediate surroundings seems like a good way to go. Professor Jan Hendriks, Head of Environmental Science at the Radboud University in Nijmegen agrees. “Just like how people now are aware of noise and smells, we could become aware of pollution that we can’t register with our own senses. This could lead to changes in awareness and behavior.”

Huisman does acknowledge that tackling environmental crime is a huge problem that will probably take multiple years. “The problem is extremely diverse, it ranges from incorrect disposal of electronic equipment to instances like in the documentary.”

His team has taken a startup-like approach; by developing, applying, and testing small steps at a time they’re hoping to iterate quickly on solutions. That’s necessary because the project involves many different types of authorities. “We’ve got people from the water authorities, environmental services, a crime economist, environmental detectives, engineers, and more.”

In addition, they’re reaching out to parties inside and outside of government to help determine the best way to solve this messy problem. So far, they’ve gotten interested responses from universities and the National Institute for Public Health. They’re also calling for startups working on IoT devices to pitch solutions.

“None of us are working on this because we have to, we’re all working on it out of a sense of that we simply have to do something about this,” Huisman said.

Which is the same feeling they’re hoping to create among the citizens by showing them what’s going on around them. Because even though environmental crime might be hard to grasp, if it’s going on in your backyard, you’re sure to act.

Got an IoT solution that can help fight environmental crime? Sign up for the Vodafone TNW IoT Challenge before August 10.


Published August 6, 2018 — 07:50 UTC

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12 of the best espresso machines, according to online reviews

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Image: pexels

The only people more dedicated to caffeine than coffee lovers are the espresso obsessed. 

If you’re not one yourself, you definitely know one. Espresso, which originated in Italy, is a finely ground, highly concentrated version of coffee that packs a punch of caffeine into a single one-ounce shot (or two, if you’d like a double-shot), making it richer and stronger than a regular cup of coffee. People who drink espresso know that it’s all about quality, which means if you’re not getting your tiny cup of life from your local barista, you best do your research and invest in a worthy espresso machine to make it at home. 

Thankfully we have Amazon, and moreover Amazon users (aka fellow espresso connoisseurs) who happen to be very vocal when it comes to their favorite machines. (We have read dozens of reviews and these folks are THOROUGH, to say the least.) To save you some time, we put together a list of the best espresso makers based on Amazon reviews. Our number one favorite was the Breville BES870XL. Not only does it take the spot of “best of the best” on Amazon’s ranks page, its ease of use, freshness factor, and straight up *amazing* espresso-making capabilities have reviewers swooning. 

Read on to see what else Amazon users had to say, as well as what other machines made our list, including the best mini-makers and portables for espresso on the go.

Image: breville

The gist: Taking the first spot on our list is the Breville BES870XL. This machine is no joke and its 4.3 star Amazon rating from over 1,800 reviews speaks to that. It boasts a 15 bar Italian pump and a 1600 watt thermo coil heating system. It comes with a 54mm tamper, a stainless steel conical burr grinder, and a 2-liter removable water tank. It’s available in three colors: black, red, and silver. 

  • Price: $577.97

  • Weight: 23 pounds

  • Dimensions: 13.2 x 12.15 x 15.8

Why it’s great: A true espresso drinker knows that when it comes to espresso, there are a few things that can’t be overlooked when it comes to a quality cup: freshness and a good grinding method. The burr grinder is a known Barista-favorite, as it maximizes the surface area of the grinds resulting in optimal flavor. The BES870 even allows you to adjust the grind and portion size, so you can go from fine to course depending on your desired flavor. 

Once you choose your grind and pre-set your volume (single or double shot), the machine will take your beans from —well, beans — to espresso in less than a minute. It doesn’t get much fresher than that. The BES870 also comes with four single and dual wall filter baskets, one stainless steel milk jug, a cleaning kit, and a precision raze dose trimming tool and PID digital temperature control. Depending on your level of expertise, you can either use the dual-wall pressurized filters (to control pressure and optimize extraction), or, for the more experienced baristas, try using the non-pressurized single-wall filters to play around and make the brew your own. This thing is the perfect tool for bringing quality espresso to aficionados at any level.  

What Amazon users have to say: Reviewers rave about how easy to maintain this model is in comparison to some cheaper options. It’s easy to clean and also very user friendly. And the quality of the espresso? Let’s just say that the word “amazing” comes up more than once. 

Amazon user Angie writes:

“This machine has turned me into a bonafide coffee snob. While it took some time to tweak all of the essential dimensions (water temp, grind size, coffee amount, draw time, basket type, etc.), I now make the most delectable coffee on earth because of this gorgeous contraption. It’s the first thing I think about when my eyes open in the morning. I’ve ditched all of the other coffee-making paraphernalia in my kitchen (french press, grinders, baskets, pour-over devices, and others . . .) because they pale (literally) in comparison to the gold that comes out of this happy faucet. If my apartment goes up in flames and I have to escape quickly down the fire escape, my espresso machine is coming with me.”

Amazon user Bookenator writes: 

“A rare example of the meeting of form and function. This machine is both beautiful to look at and makes wonderful delicious espresso and cappuccino. I was hesitant to spend this much on a “coffee maker”, but took into consideration what it costs to get a decent cappuccino from a cafe or Starbucks and finally gave in. Boy am I glad I did. All it takes to get me out of bed in the morning is the happy thought of pulling yet another delicious shot from this wonderful machine.”

Image: Breville

Image: Delonghi

The gist: This super-automatic espresso machine comes with all the bells and whistles. The Magnifica is an Amazon’s Choice and has a 4.2 star rating.

For the cappuccino lover in the house, its patented system mixes steam and milk to create a rich froth. All you have to do is stick a container of milk under the nozzle and let it go to work. Then pour as much as that creamy goodness on top of your coffee as you like. For espresso aficionados, the patented “direct-to-brew” system is key. Remember what we said above about the burr grinder? The Magnifica also comes with a built-in burr, which grinds your favorite beans immediately before brewing for maximum freshness. (If you prefer, it also works with pre-ground beans.) The machine  has an instant reheat function which keeps it at the perfect temperature, so you don’t have to wait for your machine to reheat if you decide to go for that second cup (no matter how long you wait after the first.) The Magnifica has a 1.8 liter removable water container and a 7.1 ounce bean container. To keep things simple, everything happens at the push of a button: choose from five different espresso strengths, cup size, and determine the fineness of the grind.

  • Price: $512.76

  • Weight: 27 pounds

  • Dimensions: 15.3 x 11 x 14.4 inches

Why it’s great: The Magnifica is the lazy espresso aficionado’s dream device. It’s basically the same thing as having your local coffee shop barista make your drink for you, only you don’t have to leave your house or worry about them spelling your name wrong on your cup. Since it’s a super-automatic, it pretty much takes care of everything, from tamping, to grinding, to extracting. The only thing you really have to do is fill the containers and push a few buttons. There are so many great features on this thing, with the reheat function being a customer favorite. And the fact that it’s able to remember your favorite drink settings? *Chef’s kiss.*

The Magnifica really makes it easy for true espresso lovers to brew customized, quality espresso with little to no hassle and without feeling like a sellout for turning to a method that comprises quality.

What Amazon users have to say: It’s a beast. In a good way. And by that we mean this thing is in it for the long haul. Aside from the astounding beverage quality and ease that the machine produces, one of the most consistent comments made is that the machine will last you a while. Several customer reviews go on to say how they’ve had the Magnifica for a long time and love it just as much as the day they bought it, even after using it multiple times a day for several years. The machine is obviously a bit pricier than the others on this list, but according to reviewers, the machine is so consistently good and efficient that it pays for itself several times over when you account for all the money you’ll save by skipping out on the coffee shops.

Amazon user Brett B writes:

“My absolute love of the Delonghi Maginfica ESAM3300 is hard to describe. It has been a faithful crema steeped friend and morning ritual for at least 8 years, and the current unit I bought as a replacement last week (another ESAM3300) is a testament to why I give this well built Italian Stallion “super automatic” espresso dream machine a SOLID 5 star rating.
Yes – my old unit finally gave out it seems. But 8 years of duty + the fact that I am ordering the exact same model should provide a clue as to the reliability and proven quality engineering of this model. Yes there are many newer models – but for this price point, the ESAM3300 is a champ all the way.”

Image: Delonghi

Image: Mr. Coffee

The gist: This machine is clearly a fan favorite, as it’s raked in over 2,400 reviews on Amazon, giving it an average of 4 out of 5 stars — with over 60% of users awarding it a perfect 5 star rating. The machine comes with a lot of bragging rights. Not only is it “Amazon’s Choice” for super-automatic espresso machines, it’s also their #1 best seller. 

  • Price: $189.96

  • Weight: 10.37LB

  • Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.9 x 12.6

Why it’s great: The relatively lightweight machine by Mr. Coffee is a triple threat, meaning you’re not limited to just espresso. You can also make cappuccino and regular coffee, not to mention a variety of specialty drinks from the included recipe book (think espresso martinis, raspberry cappuccinos, choco-nutty lattes, etc.) The machine comes with an electric pump that shoots out 15 bars of pressure. It also has a one-touch feature that lets you select either a single or double-shot drink, and it even has an automatic milk frother with an adjustable knob, so you can customize the amount of froth you’d like in your drink of choice. 

The machine is super easy to use: just choose either a single or double shot, select your coffee grounds, fill the milk and water reservoir and choose your brew. The water reservoir is removable, allowing for easy fill-up in the sink. The Café Barista also boasts the fastest preparation time when compared to other Mr. Coffee espresso makers. And at less than $200, this model is WAY less expensive than some of its competitors, giving you a great bang for your buck.

What Amazon users have to say: Reviewers love that you can customize the amount of froth in your drink. They also love the simplicity of use: just add water, add milk to the frother container, add coffee, and you’re ready to go. A major plus for the aficionados: this machine still gives you the option to use your own coffee grounds instead of pods, allowing for fresh and customizable brews. Several users noted how the quality of the espresso is “amazing for the price” of the machine.

Amazon user R. Rockwell writes: 

“I love this machine! I’ve been using my Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista for 9 months and it’s still going strong. I mainly bought it because I was spending way to much getting coffee drinks like lattes and macchiatos at the coffeehouse. My favorite feature is the fact that it steams and froths the milk at the same time. You can also control the amount of froth that it makes which is an awesome feature. I also have a Mr. Coffee burr grinder Mr. Coffee BVMC-BMH23 Automatic Burr Mill Grinder, Black/Silver so that I am making the freshest coffee possible and I buy my coffee freshly roasted from a local company. The results are great!”

Amazon Customer writes: 

“Great machine for the price. I spent a good amount of time researching for an espresso and latte machine. I looked over different brands and costs and while I agree this is not a expensive or professional machine, it does make great espressos and lattes. Very easy to use and clean and definitely love the taste. My daughter loves the hot chocolate with frothed milk and even my wife likes her cappuccinos. I read a few reviews regarding water leaks and I can’t see this to be a problem, it’s more on if the water tank is inserted properly. I also have a Kerrigan machine and they both are almost the same size. One more thing, the machine starts and warms water faster (no more than a 5-7 minutes). Definitely a great buy so far. If you are looking for a decent price and great coffee maker this is the one for you.”

Image: Mashable

Image: espressoworks

The gist: This “all-in-one” machine includes pretty much everything you need to make quality espresso, minus the beans. It’s Amazon’s choice for “espresso and cappuccino maker combos” and has a rating of 4.1 stars. It comes with its own electric bean-grinder, a 1.25 liter removable water tank, a measuring spoon and tamper, a stainless steel filter with two basket options, a stainless steel milk frothing cup, and two 3.6-ounce espresso cups. The machine brews espresso with 15 bars of pressure and with the Thermoblock fast heating system, it’s ready to use in 45 seconds. The two portafilter baskets allow you to pull either a single or double shot drink. 

  • Price: $219.99

  • Weight: 9.7 pounds

  • Dimensions: 9.8 x 9 x 11.5 inches

Why it’s great: This EspressoWorks gem is all about making things easy. Sure, the grinder isn’t attached like in the Breville, but including an electric grinder so that you can freshly grind the beans yourself is practically just as good. This machine also comes with a built-in steam wand, so creamy cappuccinos and lattes are a piece of cake. 

What Amazon users have to say: Reviews show that this machine almost never disappoints. but if there is an issue, the customer service is reportedly fantastic. 

Amazon user Jay Michael Pfeil writes:

“Having worked in a coffee shop I was familiar with espresso and milk steaming machines. While this product is not intended for commercial use, it is perfect for the home. The machine itself has an amazingly small footprint, and puts out adequate pressure for brewing single/double espresso shots and for properly steaming milk. The inclusion of different sized “inserts” which allow switching depth of the coffee filter attachment is a novel idea and well executed. Bought this item as a gift for my wife who loves it, but I use it myself frequently as well. Keep it clean and it should serve you for an extended period of time. For the price, I don’t believe this item can be beat.

As for the seller: when the unit was originally delivered the steam wand wasn’t performing well. After following the typical trouble-shooting tips and conferring with the seller, we found the unit was simply unable to produce enough pressure to steam or properly brew. Within a week the seller had replaced the unit, and I’m happy to report it works perfectly. No matter the production value there is always a possibility of a defect here or there. The seller standing by the product and immediately replacing it to our satisfaction really sealed the deal for us. I highly recommend both this product and the seller from whom we purchased it.”

Image: LavoHome

The gist: This espresso maker by LavoHome comes with all the essentials: a glass carafe and cover, filter basket, and tamper. The little powerhouse boasts 800 watts of power and brews up to 20 ounces of rich espresso. In the mood for a latte or cappuccino instead? It also comes equipped with a powerful steamer to make all of your favorite coffeehouse beverages. The glass decanter comes with a cool-touch handle for safe and easy pouring once your brew is complete. 

  • Price: $47.95

  • Weight: 3.63 pounds

  • Dimensions: 13.2 x 8.5 x 10.2 inches

Why it’s great: Well first let’s state the obvious: It’s less than $50. Compared to most, if not all of the countertop espresso machines on our list, this is an absolute steal. Relatively small, easy to use and affordable, this espresso maker is ideal for anyone who’s brewin’ on a budget. 

What Amazon users have to say: Don’t let the price fool you: This is still a high quality machine that delivers a solid cup of espresso. 

Amazon Customer writes:

“This is a cute little machine we have had it for quite some time now. No more starbucks for us! We are saving so much money and are able to make rich coffee at home. This is an ideal, budget friendly machine. Good for single people, students or anyone who doesn’t want to have to go out and pay for good espresso. So happy I bought this!”

Image: lavoHome

Image: breville

The gist: The Nespresso Vertuo is Amazon’s best selling espresso machine/coffee maker combo. You may recognize the Nespresso brand if you’ve ever enjoyed a stay in at a high-end hotel with a coffee machine. That’s simply because Nespresso has a good reputation when it comes to quality taste and this machine is no different. 

With the Nespresso, you have a few options when it comes to brews: a single espresso, double espresso (2.7 ounces), a gran lungo (5 ounces), a regular 7.7-ounce coffee, or an alto coffee which is 14 ounces of caffeinated bliss. Nespresso models come with a complimentary gift, which means this machine comes with a 12 pack of various Nespresso capsules of all different flavors. And since this is a bundle deal, it also comes with the Aeroccino 3 milk frother.

  • Price: $174.99

  • Weight: 10.85

  • Dimensions: 8.3×11.91×11.93 in.

Why it’s great: As much as we appreciate freshly ground coffee beans for our espresso, let’s be honest: when you *accidentally* snooze your alarm (five times) in the morning and don’t even have time to brush your hair, chances are the last think you’re gonna think about doing is grinding some freakin’ beans. This could be a problem if you’re someone (like me) who can’t function without a strong dose of caffeine in the morning. However, not a problem with Nespresso. This life-saver heats up in less than 15 seconds and gets you tasty espresso at the push of a button. You get your quick fix without sacrificing quality. 

What Amazon users have to say: The Vertuo just seems to make life easier. The quality of the brews are top notch, it allows for variety in the form of all the different beverages you can make— aka not just espresso, and the machine itself is even nice to look at. 

Amazon user Dr. J writes: 

“I have used this machine for about a week, and it is awesome! I had used an espresso machine frequently years ago, but got sick of the grinding, prepping, priming, etc., especially before work in the morning. So, I eventually gave up and bought a plain-ole coffee maker. Unfortunately, “regular” coffee, to me, tastes like hot water. I even tried a Kuerig, but returned it within a month – it was more convenient, but the coffees are no higher quality than any grocery-store brand coffee. So I debated for a long time about whether I should wait for one of these brand-new Nespresso Vertuoline machines, or just buy one of the older, espresso-only Nespresso machines.

I have to say that I’m very happy that I waited for this one! The espresso is excellent, the drinks have all been hot (even when adding milk from the Aeroccino), the whole spinning process takes about 15 seconds (or less) to pour into the cup, and – most surprisingly – the new coffee-sized cartridges are AWESOME! They taste NOTHING like regular, ground grocery-store coffee-in-a-can. They are much more flavorful, much stronger, and seem fresher even than using whole coffee with a grinder (maybe it’s from being sealed in the aluminum cartridges?).”

Image: Nespresso

Image: Bialetti

The gist: Okay, so although most of our list focuses on countertop espresso makers, if we’re going by Amazon reviews, it’d be an injustice to ignore this Bialetti Stovertop Espresso Maker. As Amazon’s best-selling stovetop espresso maker, this classy little thing is POP-U-LAR. As in 6,950 reviews (and counting) popular. Most impressively, those reviews give it an average of 4.3 stars, with 74% of them giving it a perfect 5-star rating. That’s a hell of a lot of happy people. Now, disclaimer: we do have to mention straight away that the Bialetti doesn’t *technically* make espresso, considering it’s not able to build the amount of bars of pressure necessary to again, *technically* qualify it as espresso. However, Bialetti does give tips and guidelines for how to brew their “moka” coffee to your liking. (Moka is described as a mix between coffee and espresso.) Also, some reviewers (see below for example) claim they can’t even tell the difference between the moka and a shot of espresso.

The Bialetti comes in five difference size options: 1-cup, 3-cup, 6-cup, 9-cup, or 12-cup. The pot is made of polished aluminum and its eight-sided shape apparently allows it to “diffuse heat perfectly,” which enhances that coffee aroma you love so much. 

  • Price: $29.99

  • Weight: 1.87 pounds

  • Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 9 inches

Why it’s great: Bialetti is a trusted name brand in the motherland of espresso: Italy. According to their page,  you can find a Bialetti product in nine out of ten households in Italy. Point being: they know a thing or two about a quality machine. The Bialetti Stovetop is really nothing fancy. No electronics, no buttons to push. Just fill the bottom chamber with water, fill the second chamber with ground coffee beans, put it on the stove, and wait for the coffee to start coming out the top. Boom. The coffee is fresh and the machine maintenance is basically nothing.

What Amazon users have to say: This is a great option for anyone who wants simplicity for a great price. Amazon users admit that the Bialetti may take a little bit of trial and error in order to get the perfect cup, but once you have it down, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t give it a chance sooner.

Amazon user Patrick writes: 

“If I could give this more than 5 stars I would. I love espresso drinks from coffee shops, I used to drink just regular coffee but when I quit smoking the taste changed just enough that I didn’t like it anymore. Mexican mochas on the other hand I still found palatable. But they’re about 5 bucks a pop at my local coffee shop. I also didn’t want to spend 150$+ on an espresso machine, they seem prone to breaking and judging by the reviews never really work right. So I settled on this, figuring I would try it and if it didn’t make what I wanted I’d only be out about 30 bucks. It makes delicious coffee. Put some full city roast in their and fire it up and what comes out is espresso. From my readings I’ve gathered that its not actually espresso, as the Moka pot doesn’t make enough pressure for it to be real espresso. But its playing the part convincingly, I can’t tell the difference between what comes out of this and a shot of espresso. Its paid for itself a dozen times over at this point. Absolutely one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I couldn’t be happier.”

Image: Bialetti

Image: Nespresso

The gist: The Nespresso Pixie is an Amazon’s Choice product and boasts a 4.5-star rating. It pumps espresso with 19 bars of pressure and has a 25-second heat-up time. It has two one-touch buttons (in case you want a single espresso or a slightly larger “Lungo” serving), a 0.7 liter water tank and an empty water tank alert that let’s you know when you’re running low on H2O. The machine also comes with a welcome kit that includes a range of capsules featuring various flavors.

  • Price: $171.75

  • Weight: 6.04 pounds

  • Dimensions: 12.8 x 4.4 x 9.3 inches

Why it’s great: This little guy gives users quality espresso at the convenience of an instant-coffee machine. Its 11-inch width makes it super space-friendly, while its hermetically sealed and recyclable aluminum capsules provide a fresh-tasting (and environmentally friendly!) pod option. 

What Amazon users have to say: People love this thing. It’s convenient, about the size of a toaster, and delivers a quality product. Though some aficionados might be hesitant to go the pod route instead of using fresh grounds, the Pixie’s impressive reviews may be reason enough to at least give it a shot. 

Amazon user Justine603 writes:

“I’ve wanted an espresso machine for a while now but just don’t have the room for it. I started researching the Nespresso line and wasn’t sure how I’d like it at first. I am not usually a fan of pod style coffee machines and was worried about how well this would perform. I got the Pixie model because I don’t have a big kitchen and this thing takes up barely any space on my counter. The water heats up quickly so in less than a minute you can have a cup of espresso. As other people have mentioned, it is kind of loud but it is only for a few seconds and doesn’t seem to disturb anyone else in my house. The few seconds of noise is worth it for me to have a delicious latte a few minutes later. There is a little box that collects the pods (up to 10 I think) for easy disposal. I also feel like the Nespresso pods have a much better flavor that other pod coffee. If you want a quick espresso and don’t have a lot of space for a machine then I highly recommend the Pixie. I am very happy with it and use it daily.”

Image: Nespresso

Image: nespresso

The gist: The Nespresso Inissia is very similar to the Pixie. It also comes with one-touch options for either a single espresso or lungo cup size. It pumps with 19 bars of pressure and also heats up in less than 25 seconds. With over 2,500 reviews, it stands out with a 4.4 star rating on Amazon. The Inissia has more or less the same internal workings as the Pixie (including the 0.7 liter water tank), so the quality of espresso produced should be pretty identical. The difference: unlike the Pixie, which is made of metal, the Inissia’s exterior is mostly plastic and has a slightly funkier design. However the Inissia comes in several colors, including red, black, silver, and titan. 

  • Price: $129.99 (new)

  • Weight: 5.29 pounds

  • Dimensions: 4.7 x 9 x 12.6 inches

Why it’s great: With the exception of a few exterior differences, getting the Inissia is basically like getting the Pixie at a discounted price. Aside from the quality espresso, it comes with all the same Nespresso perks: The Nespresso welcome kit has 14 unique capsules and access to the Nespresso club. Through the Nespresso Club you can order capsules either online or by phone, as well as get personalized advice and technical support for your machine 24/7. Not too shabby for a tiny little machine of its price. For those who don’t mind being a little less fancy with the exterior design, the Inissia is definitely a great option. 

What Amazon users have to say: As you may expect, there are rave reviews for Nespresso. Users love the ease of making quality espresso with little to no effort or cleanup. The machine is energy and space-saving, and comes with top notch customer service should you need it. Amazon user LT was especially feelin’ it, saying “If I could marry an appliance (is it legal?) I would spend the rest of my life with this espresso machine.” We’ll be sure to look into those marriage laws. In the meantime, here’s more Inissia praise:

Amazon user Antonia. G. Carey writes:

“Put off buying a Keurig type machine for years because it didn’t seem their coffee was that much better than what I could make for the money. Went out of the country and was staying in a 5 star hotel where they had this little miracle machine in the room with some of the coffee capsules. We were at a retreat where sometimes we had to meet at the beach at 6 a.m. It was so fantastic to be able to make the most incredible, luxurious, espresso I’ve ever had in my life (and I’ve had a lot of bad espresso). It takes very little time and is super easy to use. There are fantastic “how to” videos about the machine on youtube that I checked out when it arrived. It’s small, sleek and makes seriously incredibly fantastic espresso and lungo (which is a larger version of espresso). Loved that the amazon price was like $90 less than anywhere else online too! The vendor I purchaesd it from sent the wrong color by mistake but we were able to send the original back unopened and they sent a replacement out immediately. Absolutely recommended item if you love coffee and want a special treat at home.”

Image: Nespresso

Image: cisno

The gist: The Cisno is the perfect way to enjoy good espresso on the go and takes the spot as Amazon’s Choice for portable espresso makers with 4.5/5 stars. This little guy is small enough to fit in a cup holder, yet pumps at 15 bars of pressure, powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. All you need are Originaline Nespresso capsules and some water. The process is super simple: Insert the Nespresso capsule, pour water into the 50ml water cavity, push the one big button on the Cisno, and boom— automatically pump and enjoy you cup of espresso. Tryna stay fancy? You still have the option of using your own coffee grounds if you get reusable stainless steel capsules.

  • Price: $119.99

  • Weight: 3.51 pounds

  • Dimensions: 3.1 x 9.9 x 3.3 inches

Why it’s great: It literally doesn’t get any easier than this. The ease of use on this thing makes practically ANY time a good time to brew. Are you sitting in your car at your kid’s winter sports game wishing you had a warm espresso? Are you at the  top of a mountain after an early morning hike, wishing you could enjoy the view with a hot cuppa joe? Whip out your handy little Cisno and you’ll be sipping that notorious Nespresso taste in no time. No hot water? The Cisno can boil water for you within seconds.

What Amazon users have to say: Reviewers love the simplicity of the Cisno, especially the fact that you don’t even have to manually pump the espresso, like with many other portable options. The one button and capsules make it totally fool-proof. 

Amazon user Morgan writes:

“Oh my goodness! I never knew such a thing existed. This tiny espresso maker makes great espressos! I have taken this to work with me and everyone is jealous. I mean everyone is jealous for real. I think I even persuaded some of my colleagues to buy one themselves! How funny is that? It’s so easy to use. I usually use hot water to begin with and I don’t bother with getting it to heat my water for me because that just takes a little bit too long. Holding the button for more than 5 seconds will activate the pressurized pumping gear. It is all electronic so you don’t have to make any difficult pumping like in some other smaller products. The coffee comes out just as good as any espresso you can make. And the pods are crazy cheap. I found pods that are literally $0.10 each.”

Image: Mashable

Image: Litchi

The gist: The Litchi Portable is similar to the Cisco in that it’s very simple to use. Rather than Nespresso pods, use the measuring scooping to add ground coffee to the two-filter basket. Then, add hot water to the chamber and manually push the pressure pump until the coffee comes out. Soon you’ll be brewin’ the good stuff into the little included cup (even add a little milk if you want to go the cappuccino route.) 

  • Price: $29.99

  • Weight: 1.12 pounds

  • Dimensions: 7.6 x 3.9 x 2.8 inches

Why it’s great: The Litchi is especially great for those looking to bring their simple espresso maker to the great outdoors, or anywhere else where you’ll be lacking electricity. (Think camping trips and long hikes.) It’s easy to use and also gives you the freedom to use your own coffee grounds rather than pre-packaged pods. It’s also only 30 bucks, making it easily the most budget friendly on our list. 

What Amazon users have to say: People seem to really love this product for office and outdoor use. It’s simple to use and doesn’t require more than coffee grounds and hot water, so aficionados can breathe easier knowing that no power outage will effect their caffeination.

Amazon user Jeffrey K. French writes:

“Honestly, i bought this for my wife as a novelty item. I saw it on a lightning deal, she loves espresso, it looked cool, figured why not? Well, what was supposed to be just something for a little fun (which was, when she has used it) ended up being something she really likes and is planning on taking to work on a regular basis (she says it makes great espresso and is a quick and easy way to do it). Plus, she said it will be great when we go camping (no electric or batteries required, just hot water and it’s easy to clean). it arrived quickly and in perfect condition. So, I guess I ‘done good’ ;)”

Image: Litchi

Image: Flair

The gist: Okay, so in case any connoisseurs out there have been reading this section and thinking “a portable espresso machine takes the art away from espresso-making,” this one’s for you. Flair claims that this model was the answer to their question “What is the minimum needed to brew a professional-level shot of espresso?” The resulting product is this single-lever machine that doesn’t need pods or electricity. It pulls a quality shot at 8-16 bars of pressure, has a 60ml water capacity, and brews a single cup in 25-45 seconds. You can get it in either black or chrome colors.

  • Weight: 7 pounds

  • Price: $229.99

  • Dimensions: 12 x 6 x 10 inches

  • Weight: 7lbs 

Why it’s great: Flair *really* stresses how important espresso as an “art form” really is. The Flair is for someone who genuinely enjoys the process of creating espresso. It’s unique design makes it appealing on the counter or wherever you decide to take it, since it disassembles and folds up nicely into a carrying case. Since it doesn’t require electricity, you can take this fancy piece of hardware anywhere. The only downside is that you have to buy your own burr grinder for the best results, but chances are this won’t be an issue for someone who is already gung-ho about “the process.”

What Amazon users have to say: Reviewers love that this machine gives you quality espresso and a chic-looking machine at a price-tag that’s arguably way less than some of the bigger heavy-duty espresso machines. It takes up minimal counter-space and allows the espresso aficionado to show off their skills for guests.

Amazon user Ian writes:

“Love the Flair. Bought about a month ago and have been dialing in my home roasted espresso routine. The crema production is unrivaled even with commercial machines costing 5x more. Any shot less than spectacular is due to user error or inadequate grinds/bean quality. Using this device has been a treat and I thoroughly enjoy the fun ritualistic aspect. There is something to be said for physically pressing out all those tasty flavors rather than letting a machine. Owning the flair puts you in full control of every single aspect of the shot and allows for pressure profiling which no device can do cost effectively. Highly recommend the signature chrome and it looks stunning as a permanent countertop staple. Just found out you can make espresso with room temperature water that produces some outstanding results.”

Image: Flair

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LemonBox brings US vitamins and health products to consumers in China

China is rising in many ways — the economy, consumer spending and technology — but still many of its population looks overseas, and particularly to the West, for cues on lifestyle and health. That’s a theme that’s being seized by LemonBox, a China-U.S. startup that lets Chinese consumers buy U.S. health products at affordable prices.

Indeed, the recent scare around Chinese vaccinations, which saw faulty inoculations given to babies and toddlers in a number of provinces, has only fueled demand for overseas health products which LemonBox founder Derek Weng discovered himself when his father was diagnosed as having high blood sugar levels. Weng, then working in the U.S. for Walmart, was able to look up and buy the right medicine pills for his father and bring them back to China himself. He realized, however, that others are not so fortunate.

After polling friends and family, he set up an experimental WeChat app in 2016 that dispensed health information such as articles and information. Within a year, it had racked up 30,000 subscribers and given him the confidence to jump into the business fully.

Today, LemonBox allows Chinese consumers to buy its own-branded daily vitamin packs from the U.S.. Further down the line, the goal is to expand into more specific verticals, including mother and baby, beauty and daily supplements, according to Weng, who believes that the timing is good.

“For the first time in China, people are taking a major interest in health and are working out, while society is becoming more developed,” he told TechCrunch in an interview. “We estimate that Chinese consumers are investing 30 percent of their income in health.”

The LemonBox daily pack of vitamins.

Since its full launch three weeks ago, LemonBox has pulled in 700 customers with 40 percent purchasing a three-month bundle package and the remainder a monthly order, Weng said. Typical basket size is around 300 RMB, or nearly $45.

To get the business off the ground, Weng needed expert support and his co-founder Hang Xu — who is also LemonBox’s “Chief Nutrition Scientist” — has spent 10 years in the field of nutrition science. Xu holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, is a U.S.-registered dietitian and has published over 10 research papers. The startup’s third co-founder, Eddy Meng (CMO), is a graduate of Chinese app store startup Wandoujia which sold to Alibaba two years ago.

Right now, LemonBox has offices in the U.S. and China and it is squarely focused on e-commerce but Weng said the company is looking to introduce other kinds of health services. That could include consultations with dietary experts and specific offerings for patients leaving a hospital or in other long-term care situations, as well as potentially own-label products.

“We look at Stitch Fix for inspiration,” Weng said. “Right now, it leverages data to develop its own in-house private label products that improve on margin and the accuracy of recommendations. This kind of data and further services will be the next stage for us.”

LemonBox raised a seed round in March, which included participation from Y Combinator, and as part of Y Combinator’s current program, it’ll present to prospective investors at the program’s demo day. Already, though, Weng said there’s been interest from investors which the company is thinking over.

Interestingly, it was forth time lucky entering YC for Weng, who had before applied with previous startups unsuccessfully. This time it was entirely circumstantial. He applied to be in the audience for Y Combinator’s ‘Startup School’ event that took place in Beijing in May.

Unbeknownst to him, YC picked out a handful of attendees whose companies were of interest, and, after an interview that Weng didn’t realize was an audition, LemonBox was selected and fast-tracked into the organization’s latest program. In addition, YC joined the startup’s seed funding round which had initially closed in March.

That anecdotal evidence says much of YC’s effort to grab a larger slice of China’s startup ecosystem.

The organization has aggressively recruited companies from under-represented regions such as India, Southeast Asia and Africa, but China remains a tough spot. According to YC’s own data, fewer than 10 Chinese companies have passed through its corridors. That’s low considering that the organization counts over 1,400 graduates.

With events like the one in May, which helped snare LemonBox, and a new China-centric role for partner Eric Migicovsky, who founded Pebble, YC is trying harder than ever.

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