Re: Basic espresso questions
- From: Danny <danny@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 17:00:59 +0000
I'm new to the group, so this is my first posting.
I 've long enjoyed the so-called coffee culture and am considered a bit
of a coffee snob by my friends, though I suspect by the standards of
the average alt.coffee reader, I'll be considered an insufferable
dillatante. That's OK, as I want to ascend to the next stage. I'm
happy to be in the company of cognoscenti who can actually discern the
difference between Folger's and Lavazzo. I am eagerly awaiting the
straight talk, no holds barred, reality check that I need to break my
bad habits (sometimes I actually grind my beans the night before I brew
!), work through the pain, and acheive a new level of clarity.
Welcome! Most here wouldn't even consider the difference between Folgers and Lavazza (pregorund) as worthwhile, although Lavazza has it's place.
My basic status in the coffee culture hierarchy of caffeine
consciousness can be summed up by these particulars: Starbucks Barista
burr grinder (made by Solis), vacuum pot (Yama), and Keurig
single-server brewer (using the My K-cup mini baskets that I load with
I am just making the transition to espresso. Last night I bought on
eBay a new Saeco Aroma SS (same as Classico) that I got for $167. I
really wanted a Silvia, but couldn't quite justify the cost at this
point, at least until I see how well my espresso-making works out. I
read a lot on this site and Coffeekid's site, and the Saeco seemed a
good bet, though I acknowledge that some of its users have had
reliability problems. I was concerned about Gaggia's corrosion
problems with its aluminum boiler, not to mention the
aluminum/Alzheimer's possible link (though many dismiss that as
irrational). And I couldn't find a Solis SL70 cheaper than $350. So, I
hope that the Saeco works out.
Why do so many people buy a machine then ask if it's likely to be OK? All your reading of Coffeegeek might have led you to reach certain conclusions, but to be honest, reviews are just that. "I've just got my espresso machine and it's great" - I would take note of people who've had some experience in the domestic machine arena, with several months experience of their own (and hopefully other) machines.
You unfortunately dismissed a great range of machines with your aluminium fears - see recent threads here about old Gaggias - I myself have two machines, one of which is a 1980's vintage in great working order, so the aluminium boiler is long lasting, and people have cooked with aluminium cookware for years (and still do). I've not yet seen conclusive evidence of any link with desease.
I used to have an inexpensive Krups pump machine and enjoyed making
caps on it. I didn't know anything about god shots or crema, so in my
case, ignorance was bliss. However, I've always known that fresh beans
ground at home was the way to go, so my caps were always drinkable,
especially with a spoonful or two of sugar. Anyway, the Krups died and
has since had an unceremonius funeral at our town dump, where I saw it
shatter into a zillion pieces at the bottom of a dumpster.
But, as I said, I'm now ready to strive for the next level. Everone
says that a good (i.e., great) grinder is a prerequisite. I'm
wondering why this is the case. Why is it so imporatant to making good
espresso that all the particles of coffee are identically sized? This
doesn't seem to make a difference in drip or vacuum coffee. I can
understand that you don't want a lot of powder to clog the portafilter,
but if a bit of powder is mixed in with some bigger particles and the
result is that it still takes about 25 seconds to pull a shot, then why
would uniformity of grind make a difference?
It's not uniformity exactly (espresso grind is a mixture of particle sizes). In the first instance, ground coffee stales quickly so freshly ground is a necessity, in the second instance, the grinder needs to be capable of an espresso grind, which means a decent burr grinder, especially as the cheaper grinders create a lot of fines which will overextract when brewing espresso. Listen to "everyone" - saves reinventing the wheel (or buying the cheapest grinder you can before eventually discovering that a good grinder bought sooner will last your entire coffeemaking years).
See my site below and check the espresso FAQ for an insight.
I can understand that getting great crema might depend on a perfect
grind, but why would getting great tasting espresso require uniform
My second question is this: everybody says that a pressurized
portafilter makes it impossible to see how well you executed your shot
because it gives you perfect crema no matter what you do. In the
pursuit of a quality shot, I would prefer to avoid cheating with a PPF.
So... can I dissassamble the mechanism in the PPF, or would I be
better off buying a $30 NPPF from Saeco or 1st Line?
It's fake crema, not perfect crema. I don't have experience with your machine so can't advise on replacement parts.
Also, any advice on a good decaf espresso roast? Since I plan to brew
in the evening also, this is a necessity, since being wired until 3
a.m. cannot be part of the plan. Been there already.
Hey, thanks in advance for any help or insight you guys can offer!
-Andy (Hollis, NH)
http://www.gaggia-espresso.com (a purely hobby site)
http://www.dannyscoffee.com (UK advert for my mobile espresso service)
http://www.malabargold.co.uk (UK/European online ordering for Malabar Gold blend)
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