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Darkthrone - A Blaze in the Northern Sky Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit a tense, beautiful, lo-fi landmark from the second wave of black metal.
In the fall of 1971, a child is born in a remote village in Norway. He will one day rechristen himself Fenriz, after the Earth-swallowing wolf, Fenrir, who appears in Norse mythology and the Satanic Bible. But for now, he is Gylve Nagell, being raised by his grandmother, spending inordinate amounts of time alone. The pivotal moments of his childhood occur while listening to records, music introduced to him by an eccentric uncle named Stein. Pink Floyd catches his ear; a few songs by the Doors hold his attention; but it’s the English progressive rock band Uriah Heep that blows his mind. He’s entranced by the heavy organ sound, the cryptic lyrics, and the mysterious men with long hair who appear on the album’s cover. He cherishes the triple-fold LP like an heirloom from…

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Siemens EQ.6 Plus s100 Review

If you like your espressos and latte macchiatos prepared automatically for you, the EQ.6 Plus bean-to-cup coffee machine should appeal.

Should I Buy The Siemens EQ.6 Plus?
A competent, reliable bean-to-cup machine that delivers great-tasting coffee no matter what your preference for the black stuff.

Price When Reviewed
  • £999
Siemens is perhaps not the first brand you'd think of when choosing a coffee machine, but the EQ.6 is a seriously good bean-to-cup model that should be taken seriously - if the price hasn't done that job already.

The EQ.6 sits in the middle of the new range which also comprises the EQ.3 and EQ.9. The latter is the only model to benefit from a companion app: you'll have to be physically present in front of the EQ.6 to make your coffee.

The RRP of £999 sounds high, but if you hunt around online you can find the TE653311RW (EQ.6 Plus s300) for around £650 from The Coffee Mate. The actual model on review here is the UK-specific TE651209GB (EQ.6 Plus s100), and as it's new, it's not yet possible to find it discounted. The only other official UK model is the s700, which has an RRP of £1299.


Of course, you can spend a lot less or a lot more on a bean-to-cup coffee machine so the EQ.6 is definitely mid-range.

See alternatives, including the £699 De'Longhi ECAM 350.35.W, in our roundup of the best coffee machines.

Features & Design
Whether or not you find the two-tone black and silver attractive or not, the EQ.6 is undeniably well designed. It's a little larger than the most compact machines, but should still easily fit on your kitchen worktop with just enough room beneath your top cupboards to refill the bean container.

We particularly like that the lid has a rubber seal to keep the beans fresher: others we've seen, particularly from De'Longhi have no seal.

It's also handy that the water tank can be refilled without removing it from the machine: a flap on top flips up so you can pour it in from a jug. There's space in the tank for a Brita Intenza water filter, but the s100 model does not come with one. You don't have to use a filter, but it's advisable if you live in a hard-water area.
At the front is an attractive-looking touch-sensitive display where you can touch the picture of the coffee you want and press 'Start' rather than scrolling through a text menu on a screen. There is an LCD screen which still displays menus and options, but the images mean anyone can operate the EQ.6 without having to read the manual.

It's when you want to start customising things such as the temperature, strength and cup size that the screen is useful, as well as when you want a "Special Beverage" - a style of coffee not pictured. Unfortunately, the s100 doesn't have any of these, so when you tap the picture of the coffee with a + symbol you only get the option of hot water. On higher-spec machines (which include the s300, s500 and s700) you can pick from more, including Americano, Flat White and Café Cortado.

Naturally, if you know how to make those styles, you can still do it on the s100, albeit manually. The other component you don't get with the s100 is the milk container. It's easy to spend a good 10 minutes trying to figure out how to make your first milky coffee on this entry-level machine because the manual simply does not explain that you have to provide your own container and put the plastic tube into it. The fact it clips into the drip tray is just for storage and, well, drips.

However, the fact that all models of the EQ.6 can automatically make cappuccinos, lattes and other milky coffees automatically is what sets it apart from lesser rivals which merely have a steam wand that you have to use to froth up your milk separately. Even if you go for the s100, supply it with milk via the tube, and the heating and frothing is all done internally and milk is dispensed into the cup or glass in the same place as the coffee.

Coffee, naturally, is of the utmost importance and the EQ.6 has a few tricks up its sleeve for producing outstanding taste as well as aroma. The first is the sensoFlow heater which keeps the water temperature between 90 and 95°C for the entire brewing process, while the ceramDrive grinder                 can be adjusted for a finer grind than standard - something we thought improved the aroma and strength.

If you do like your coffee to be super-strong, there's a special doubleShot mode which brews a smaller amount of grounds for a shorter time, then repeats the process to make up the quantity. This approach is to avoid excessive brewing time which can result in undesirable flavours being released, and it also improves aroma.

Performance
Right from the first espresso, the EQ.6 impressed us, not just with its speed and relative quiet operation, but with the fantastic aroma and excellent taste. There was plenty of crema and at the default temperature, no hints of burnt flavours.
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Even at the mild and medium settings, espressos were strong enough for our tastes, but there are still three further levels including that doubleShot+ if you want a more intense coffee.

It's possible to make two espressos or coffees at once, so long as the drinks don't contain milk. Annoyingly, though, the EQ.6 still has to grind two lots of beans: it seemingly can't just grind a larger quantity and dispense more coffee. This means it does take a bit longer than some others we've tested, but it isn't a dealbreaker.

Having a fully-automatic system for milky coffees makes the process a lot faster, and we were pleased with the quality of the froth and the taste. It's worth noting that on the s100 you cannot adjust the milk-coffee ratio to properly customise your cappuccino as you can on the s700.

After making a drink with milk, a steam pulse quickly cleans out the pipes so you don't have to. But when it is necessary to do a full clean from time to time, the components all come apart easily and are simple to clean. The brewing unit is a complicated piece of kit, but pops out from the right-hand side and isn't too difficult to clean.

The EQ.6 will warn you if there isn't enough water to make the coffee(s) you've selected, when the grounds container and drip tray need emptying, when it's time to descale and clean things, and there's even a choice of cleaning programmes including a one-minute milk system rinse to a 43-minute descale and clean (you need to provide the descaling tablets).

Verdict
We're big fans of the EQ.6. It looks good, makes great coffee and as far as possible minimises the burden of manual cleaning. It's a bit of a shame that at this price s100 doesn't have the extra coffee styles available on the s700, nor the ability to adjust the amount of milk added to cappuccinos and lattes.

However, if this doesn't bother you and like the idea of fully automatic cappuccinos and lattes, the EQ.6 s100 is a fine choice.

Specs
  • 385 x 281 x 468 mm
  • 9.5kg
  • 1500W

View my Flipboard Magazine.

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