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Percolator vs Plunger vs Siphon vs Espresso Machine


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#1 skyhskyh

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 12:47 AM

Firstly, thank you for all the input in the other post, I am still reading the responses and digesting them.

From the other post, I wanted to save some money in the long run by not buying coffees outside (not completely not buying out, but not EVERYDAY lol).

But I still wanted good coffees, I am willing to buy some reasonable priced equipment to make good coffees at home, and then possibly pour it into a thermo and bring to work or something....

*****

Now....speaking of making of good coffees, I guess I have to go back to the basics.... that is:

How to make coffee out of those coffee beans? In cooking perspective: How long should I cook them in "water"? What the temperature should be? Does temperature matter? What should be the ratio of coffee to water to milk? etc....

*****

Then if making good coffees require XXX amount temperature, duration, ratio, .... then which equipment gives best results? And what are these equipment advantages and disadvantages?

*****

Thanks =)

(btw, I am going to a coffee shop now and going to do some work with a nice cup of coffee =) )

#2 PassionateChefsDie

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 01:42 AM

I'm still waiting for a Rancillo Silvia for a birthday present I doubt I'll get it. For me who goes between wishing for that with a grinder and having read a bit and drinking pretty rubbish coffee generally. Where I've read most is here but these guys really know coffee.. Coffee Freaks

What I've basically read is you will jump in coffee standard straight away with freshly roasted beans(The geeks will say yourself) and a really good grinder (Rancillo Rocky $330'ish). As for what you do with that you'll notice the difference straight away be it perculator, press or syphons. As far as I know with those 3 the temp control etc will not be so controllable and perhaps may not improve as greatly as upgrading to an espresso machine would.

From my reading the entry level seems about the Rancillo Silvia but it is crude, but well built and fine tuning normally involves some electronic gizmo's or some routine and a stop watch to dial it in. So I suspect for a little more money you could get something else(Back to the geek site), what I also stumbled across which surprised me was on the site you will find the odd recommendation for relatively top end pod machines which I suspect is due to lack of all the grinding etc and a little less price.

As for all the temps, getting the perfect micro foam, recommendations for grinders, espresso machines, beans etc.. I suggest you browse through their forum.

Edited by PassionateChefsDie, 01 October 2011 - 01:44 AM.

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#3 ScoopKW

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 01:52 AM

I have the la Pavoni Europiccola plunger.

1) It has quite the learning curve. As mentioned, beans and grind has a LOT to do with it.

2) Once past the learning curve, the user can reasonably expect perfect shot after perfect shot. And not have to worry about a pump failing.

3) It isn't cheap. But it has the additional advantage of looking really good on the counter. And, I think it's the only espresso machine featured in a James Bond film.

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#4 weinoo

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 04:27 AM

Of course, a shot of espresso and a cup of coffee are two entirely different things.

Can you tell us your budget? I am once again confused, as in your original topic you mentioned you wanted to save some money. And now you appear to want to spend money on some "reasonable priced equipment." So - what's reasonable in your book?
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#5 Mjx

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 04:35 AM

There is no 'best' kind of coffee maker, just 'preferred'/'reliable'.

I like a moka best, but for some reason, have never been able to get predictable results on a glass-ceramic stovetop (the only sort of stovetop to which I have access these days), so I'm now happy to rely on the Silvia (which, incidentally, I got my boyfriend for his birthday--many thanks to weinoo's recommendations--so I wouldn't give up hope yet, PassionateChefsDie).

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#6 skyhskyh

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 04:42 AM

Sorry for the confusion, but I really haven't set myself a budget.

I just thought if I spend money everyday, 1-2 coffees a day, the same amount of money I spend in a few months could have easily be spent on some equipment and coffee beans, then months and years following that, I will be saving a lot in the long run.

What is Reasonable....I still don't really have one. I won't be spending thousands obviously, few hundreds probably seem a bit expensive, however, I am still quite open to possibly $250 max IF the equipment is well worth the price tag and has a long working life. For example, one time I went to a coffee shop and they sell syhpons for $150-$200 (if my memory serves me well), if syphons for example are the "best" method to make coffee and they last for quite a long time, then maybe this $200 could be well spent and in the meantime, it would also have saved me a lot of money for not needing to buy coffees EVERYDAY!

#7 skyhskyh

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 04:46 AM

Also, regarding "the best" coffee...

obviously I know it's very subjective and can be a personal thing of what is best coffees to them...

however,

there are still lots of common and accepted of what are great qualities of coffees....take a piece of steak for example, most people would agree if it's juicy, tender, good marbling ... gives a great steak. Of course there would be some of might prefer a chewy steak, etc...

accordingly, I would love to know how to make "great" coffees, then I could adjust from that to suit my individual taste or make for my friends according to theirs =)

#8 weinoo

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 05:07 AM

Zachary's post in your original topic is a good start at how to make great coffee. He owns a $150 burr grinder that has lasted 8 years.

In my opinion, the best way to spend your money (if you have access to good quality, freshly roasted beans) is to buy a quality grinder.

Then you can add to your coffee collection by starting with a cheap pour over pot, a Moka pot, an aeropress, and even a stovetop siphon unit. For instance, this Yama siphon pot is $36 at Amazon. For under $100, you can have a French press, a siphon pot, a pour-over unit and a Moka pot.

Bottom line is it's about the beans and water. Take care of those aspects and quality coffee will be yours.

As to your reference to steak...well, if you start with a lousy steak nothing you can do will make that steak better. Same with coffee - you have to start with good coffee.
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#9 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 05:38 AM

Zachary's post Same with coffee - you have to start with good coffee.


Yes, but where do you get THAT?

#10 Country

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 05:52 AM

A friend of mine used to make the best coffee I've ever had using an ordinary old aluminum percolator, on an old ordinary electric range, using Maxwell House from a can. Part of it may have been that it was good Vermont well water, but I think most of it was because he just had that "touch" for making good coffee.

eta: It may have been Chock Full o'Nuts instead of Maxwell House. Can't remember. At any rate, ground coffee from a can.

Edited by Country, 01 October 2011 - 05:55 AM.


#11 weinoo

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 06:50 AM


Zachary's post Same with coffee - you have to start with good coffee.


Yes, but where do you get THAT?

Where do you live?
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#12 weinoo

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 06:51 AM

Part of it may have been that it was good Vermont well water, but I think most of it was because he just had that "touch" for making good coffee.

I'm sure that was it.
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#13 nickrey

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 07:06 AM

With a spending limit of $250 max, you should retitle this thread to "what is the best coffee that can be achieved on a budget."

For the amount that you have, I'd be heading towards a great grinder and good coffee. Then buy yourself a French Press. Put the right amount of coffee in the press (one standard coffee scoop for each cup plus one for the pot if you are making more than three cups). Boil water. Let it come down from boiling slightly (I sometimes add a touch of cold water to take the boil off). Pour the appropriate amount of water (slightly more than you need for your cups as the beans keep some water). Stir the coffee with a spoon vigorously for 30 seconds or so. Press the plunger and pour.

It won't get you the best coffee but realistically you cannot afford that. What it will get you is a lot better coffee than you will get in most places, particularly if you use fresh and good quality beans.

If it doesn't work to your satisfaction the first time or even the second time, persevere. There is technique in coffee making that can only be gained through experimentation.

But if you don't want to learn technique and experiment and want middle of the road, reliable, but better than a lot of coffee that you can get, buy yourself a Nespresso. This is probably in your price range. Then work out which pods work best for you.

Edited by nickrey, 01 October 2011 - 07:07 AM.

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#14 earlgrey_44

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 07:36 AM



Zachary's post Same with coffee - you have to start with good coffee.


Yes, but where do you get THAT?

Where do you live?


If there's no good roaster nearby, start here:

http://www.home-bari...ers-t12125.html

While this list is espresso oriented, there's plenty of brewing coffees to explore. Most all the coffee people listed ship right after roasting, and put the roast date on their bags - a definitive sign of somebody who is serious.

I agree with wienoo that the starting emphasis should be on coffee quality first, and then a good grinder. The easiest way to improve one's coffee is to find specialty coffee in the top 10% of quality for the current crop, which must be sought out from the right roaster, and avoid run-of-the-mill commodity coffee which is everywhere. The sweet spot at the moment are beans that cost $12 to $16 per pound from folks like those on the list in the link, which will yield flavor a mile ahead of supermarket coffee. Prices above this range will generally give you increasingly exotic stuff but the difference will not be quite so dramatic for the newbe coffee explorer.

Manual pour over coffee pots using paper filters will give you clearly separated flavors and a clean cup, and are cheap to buy. French press gives a muddier cup with rich oily flavors some love and some hate - a matter of taste. Siphon pots are a bit odd to use but give a cup that mixes the best attributes of both - but they're quirky and not everyones favorite. Espresso that is actually good is a another subject unto itself, and is the most equipment and money intensive way to do coffee. Percolators tend to destroy the aromatics that come with the better coffees, so pursuit of better coffee with a percolator is self-limiting - but of course their distinctive flavor pattern has its fans.

Baratza is a company that make nice grinders that are relatively durable, and do a much better job than the el-cheapo bean bashers in the department store.

Edited by earlgrey_44, 01 October 2011 - 07:42 AM.


#15 Zachary

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 07:52 AM

Skyhskyh,

If I had a $250 budget, and I wanted the absolute best coffee I could make at home, I think I would end up with something very close to my setup. I think I would forget about making espresso at home - the grinder alone for espresso is going to top $300.

As always start with the grinder - mine is the Solis (Baratza) Maestro Plus, which is $150. Built like a tank, does what I need it to, and easy to clean. Learn how to clean it, and clean it once a week.

Next, get a French Press. I know siphons and other things look great, and they're fun to make coffee in, but you've got to learn the basics, and a French Press will do it. This should be $20. Personally, I'd disassemble the plunger mechanism - take the knob off the top, remove the lid, carefully lift the handle up over the edge of the glass, then reassemble the plunger. This way you can do a "French Pull" with the grinds on top of the plunger as well as a press.

I think you could also get a V60 (from Hario), a Chemex, and an Aeropress for your remaining budget. That's what I have. For daily use, I'm a French Press or V60 kind of guy. On the weekends, Chemex. Oh... You'll need filters for the Chemex and V60.

You should already have a digital thermometer and a gram scale (if you don't, it'll be another $100). Then, find a local source of freshly roasted coffee, and you're set. It's all learning from there.

As for ratios and timing, 6 g of coffee for each 100 g of water is the golden ratio, and I would adjust this 1 g. of coffee either way to your liking. My goal is a 45 second bloom phase, and a 2:45-3:15 steep phase, no matter which method I'm using.

Thanks,

Zachary

Edited by Zachary, 01 October 2011 - 07:58 AM.


#16 rotuts

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 07:55 AM

first:

go here: http://www.sweetmarias.com/index.php and study the coffee making articles.

on your budget:

find good local fresh roasted beans.

get the solis grinder:

http://www.google.co...iw=1103&bih=998

the $ 109 - 129 item is perfect. I still have it and use it for drip.

start with drip read about how to do that a SM with some youtube vids

next consider a french press: it has fuller body as it has some fine grounds in the cup. soime like this some do not.

do not go to espresso too soon: you will need to start with the rancillo at about $750.

once you get the hang of the drip consider if as fantastic hobby you want to roast your own. all that is at SW. costs about 1/2 of buying best quallity local beans. and much fresher and its quite easy.

start with the popcorn popper.

also mentioned here is :

http://www.home-barista.com/

this is a fantastic site but somewhat geared for the medium - advanced addict. I moved up from the Rancillio silvia to the Alexia PID based on ideas and feedback from HB.

but I used the RS for 4 years first.

and home roasted then used the Solis/baratza for 4 years before that.

the story goes: green bean > roasted beans > grinder > extraction method.

drip is not french press is not espresso. each properly done is fantastic.
good luck.

Edited by rotuts, 01 October 2011 - 08:18 AM.


#17 weinoo

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 07:56 AM

Actually, you can get a refurbished Baratza Maestro Plus for under $100, from Baratza.

That'll leave you $150 - you can get some nice beans from, let's say Intellegentsia, a French press, a Melitta pour over, a digital scale, a digital thermometer and a few nice coffee cups with the change.
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#18 rotuts

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 08:24 AM

that refurb looks good if you go that route.

the digital scale and thermometer are a lot of fun, but Id save that for later.

no one I know who home roasts quality green beans (SM) ever drinks anything else.

its not a snob thing, its just all those beans have to travel, are selected by someone else, are $$ etc.

Im also always surprised so many people who love coffee (their personal perfect cup what ever that might be and its a personal beverage after all) are reluctant to roast their own.

very very easy and rewarding.

:smile:

#19 weinoo

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 08:35 AM

Im also always surprised so many people who love coffee (their personal perfect cup what ever that might be and its a personal beverage after all) are reluctant to roast their own.

very very easy and rewarding.

:smile:

Except when you live somewhere where you can't!
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#20 Country

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 08:38 AM


Part of it may have been that it was good Vermont well water, but I think most of it was because he just had that "touch" for making good coffee.

I'm sure that was it.


Yes. Some people have the "touch", and some people need to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment, and endlessly search for the best beans.

I once knew someone who made very good "camp" coffee. Brought water to a boil, threw in some ground coffee from a can, turned down the heat and, when it was done, added cold water to settle the grounds. While his was very good, later on I tried doing it, but it was pretty awful.

Like so much else in cooking, lots depends on some innate ability, some inner sense, to do things. The "touch". And no amount of fancy, expensive, equipment will make up the difference.

That goes for all this "Modernist Cuisine" stuff too. :wink:

#21 rotuts

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 08:41 AM

I was going to suggest that, but dont apartments have decents vents over the stove?

it can get a *** touch *** smoky just a touch. offer the firemen a real cup of coffee when they show up

so I amend: so many who can, etc etc, dont.

does your apt complex have a BBQ area? a balcony?

#22 Mjx

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 08:50 AM

skyhskyh, leaving aside the 'touch' bestowed by the magical caffeine pixies, before you make any decisions, you need to be clear on what you consider 'a good cup of coffee'. Neither spending nor saving a bundle is going to do you much good if the end result is simply a kind of coffee you don't happen to like.

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#23 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 09:38 AM

Weighing in from coffee country (I can get a myriad pick of excellent beans in anything from still-in-the-cherry to freshly-roasted while I wait), I'd say that your best bet is a good burr-style grinder and a Moka pot with the little steamer-attachment-thingie that screws into the vent (a grand attachment for things like steamed milk). You'll be well under budget and have money left over for good beans.
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#24 Zachary

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 11:03 AM

I'm going to fold a couple of things together here:

Like so much else in cooking, lots depends on some innate ability, some inner sense, to do things. The "touch". And no amount of fancy, expensive, equipment will make up the difference.


the digital scale and thermometer are a lot of fun, but Id save that for later.


Look, you want proper extraction, and all you have is water and coffee. If you can't weigh your beans and can't measure your water temperature accurately, I can guarantee that you'll make great coffee one in ten times, and you won't know why you did it. There's a reason that good coffee shops have pourover bars and have PIDs on their water heaters and brew into something on a digital gram scale. Knowing proper ratios and water temperature means repeatably good coffee.

And again, if you need help finding a local source of freshly roasted coffee, please let us know what part of the world you're in.

Thanks,

Zachary

#25 rotuts

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 11:47 AM

all you said is quite true.

however the PID on espresso machines including mine serves the purpose of keeping the group head at the correct temp: about 200 F. or whatever you choose. the machines themselves cycle up and down off that temp. by as much as 10 degrees, if not more. the heavy group head is a heat sink for maintaing that (correct) temp through extraction. PID will not help you there, and indeed those who have an espresso with PID watch the temp as you extract. it will fall.

you can get great espresso off a Silvia without the PID as long as you understand how to temperature surf. the PID with a solid heat sink takes some of the guesswork out of the equation. thats all.


if you preheat your glass FR, and take water just off the boil, ie a few bubbles still but not too many you get the correct temp without the probe.

the probe is great fun, but not needed by a beginner. the bubbles tell the story.

the amount of coffee by gm is far more important in a given the fixed volume ie in an espresso portafileter,

an volume measure works fine for a beginner.

after all, our friend might really like different coffee that does not need this degree of sophitication.

one step at a time.

after all, I hear people like the coffee that Dunkin Donuts makes.

I think thats great for them.

Edited by rotuts, 01 October 2011 - 11:50 AM.


#26 andiesenji

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 12:36 PM

I would like to know the following:

How do you like your coffee? Black, with sugar, with cream, with both?

What strength do you like - strong, as with a dark roast, or ????

Do you like espresso-based coffee drinks? Either plain espresso, with steamed milk, foamed milk or ???

I think all these factors need to be known before you spend $$$$ on equipment that you may not use and will simply gather dust.

If you like the regular coffees served at some places, ask how they brew it. Go to a place that sells premium coffees and ask questions.

Some coffees, depending on how they are roasted and how they are ground, taste better when brewed one way and not so good when brewed another way.

For instance: Dark roast coffees do not benefit from percolator brewing. They are great when brewed in a French press, assuming you know the "trick" of how to use one to best advantage, or in a vacuum pot.

Vacuum pots were popular for many decades because they were (and are) virtually foolproof and produce an excellent brew if "regular" coffee is your drink of choice.

As noted above, the beans with which you start are of greatest importance. In my opinion, it is better to buy coffee from a store that specializes in roasting and grinding to order, buy in small amounts, and brew with Pour-over, French press or vacuum brewer.

Years ago I went through my share of inexpensive espresso machines, some not-so-inexpensive and because I could never master the technique of tamping, ended up with a very expensive superautomatic.
And then after the "new" had worn off, seldom used it. Great dust catcher though.

A few months ago a friend who lives in the Bay area took a Coffee Masters Class - doesn't plan on becoming a professional, just wanted more knowledge.

You might check to see if there is anything like this in your area.

Once you know exactly what you consider the "perfect cup" - then you can learn how to achieve it
- and before you spend a lot of money on something that may or may not work for you.

Edited by andiesenji, 01 October 2011 - 12:41 PM.

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#27 emannths

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 01:37 PM

[snip]

if you preheat your glass FR, and take water just off the boil, ie a few bubbles still but not too many you get the correct temp without the probe.

the probe is great fun, but not needed by a beginner. the bubbles tell the story.

the amount of coffee by gm is far more important in a given the fixed volume ie in an espresso portafileter,

an volume measure works fine for a beginner.

after all, our friend might really like different coffee that does not need this degree of sophitication.

one step at a time.

after all, I hear people like the coffee that Dunkin Donuts makes.

I think thats great for them.


Have you ever actually measured the temperature of water "just off the boil?" For me, it stays at about 210F for a long time--it's a terrible way to get ~201F water with my setup. If someone's got a budget of $250, a thermometer is an excellent use of money. Will it make or break the coffee? Probably not. But 1) it eliminates a major variable, as Zachary points out, and 2) you can use it all over the kitchen. I get more use out of my thermapen than any other appliance in my kitchen other than the stove and the microwave. I break it out every time I cook any non-braised meat, and any time I make coffee or tea. And you can now get decent thermocouple models for $40 or less. Can you make coffee without it? Yeah, and not owning one or not having the budget for one shouldn't stop you from making your own coffee. But IMO the benefit is huge relative to the cost.

I'd agree that maybe a gram scale is unnecessary--you can pretty consistently measure water and beans by volume. It may be hard to be accurate, but you can be pretty precise and repeatable, especially with larger volumes.

If OP prefers DD/diner coffee, loaded up with cream and sugar, there's no need for this sort of sophistication. Preground coffee from the grocery store and Mr Coffee will replicate that just fine. But you probably don't need to ask eGullet or CoffeeGeek for help with that.

One thing that should probably come out of this is that it's fairly cheap to switch from french press to pourover to moka, or add a thermometer, scale, electric kettle, etc. You wind up with a lot more sunk cost if you decide to upgrade your grinder. Therefore, it's probably best to put most of your startup budget into the grinder. It's also the place with the strongest price:performance correlation.

#28 skyhskyh

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 08:35 PM

is there any difference in buying already grounded beans VS buy non-grinded beans and grind at home? isn't the same since the goal is just to grind them into small pieces?? :blink:

#29 nickrey

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 08:56 PM

Once you grind beans, they start losing their aroma and flavour components. There is so much difference between already ground and freshly ground beans that you cannot get "best" coffee from pre-ground, period.

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#30 rotuts

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 07:32 AM

today's NYTimes magazine:

http://www.nytimes.c...ref=todayspaper

i do not agree with the end of thelast paragraph: green coffee beans keep a very long time if sealed with minimal air. that why I have the weston sealer not the food saver for my SV: it;s bag is thicker and will keep air out and ice crystals from damaging the bag in the freezer if you choose to freeze your green coffee beans.

how can one compare coffee beans with fish?

:blink:

Edited by rotuts, 02 October 2011 - 07:37 AM.