Escali digital scale to weigh beans for espresso and for roast blending - 1/10 gram accuracy
Isomac Tea (E61 style grouphead)
18/10 stainless steel pitcher for frothing - 12 oz pitcher for singles and 24 oz for multiples
Solis Maestro reserved for drip coffee (on the rare occasions when I make it)
Alpenroast drum roaster
My office: (in another city)
Saeco Trevi superauto bought as refurb for $325 total - decent Americano's but mediocre cappa's
Reviews I've seen of doserless Rocky have mixed opinions on how mess-free the doserless system really is. I agree that the Mazzer is really messy until one becomes accustomed to it but the stepless adjustment system is fantastic. Rocky owners (and others) generally acknowledge having regular occasions where the grind level they want is between the indents on the adjustment collar. The Mini is so quiet, so rock solid and such a joy to use that it's worth the learning curve.
The trick for me is to weigh the beans (17 or 17.5 grams per double shot), grind, stop, quick brush out of the doser neck and hit the grind button to expel the loosened grinds. You must remove the steel finger guard to do this but how dumb woul done have to be to stick their finger up the doser chute of a coffee grinder that is running? If you think a gram or so of stale grounds won't affect the taste of your espresso, think again. You wouldn't use "just a bit" of some other stale foodstuff in preparing a fine dish to eat, now would you? I'm not talking about grounds from a few hours ago. I travel frequently and may go days or even weeks before I'm home to use my gear. The brushing routine and weighing the beans seemed so anal and like such overkill that I resisted trying it until I became frustrated by lack of consistency in my espresso shots. ONce I started doing it, it became such an ingrained routine that now it adds perhaps 30 - 40 seconds to the overall process but has given me remarkable consistency.
I roast my own when time permits and use Sweet Maria's as my bean source but I also pick up freshly roasted beans from Freedom of Espresso in Syracuse when I'm there for work (far too often). They have an excellent blend and roast several times per week. Have been very disappointed the few times I bought espresso blend from Porto Rico Imports on Bleecker - not very fresh. I did get some beans from Empire Coffee and Tea on 9th Ave near 42nd and made up my own espresso blend (they don't have a house espreso blend). It was not up to the standards of my favorite blends but not bad. Intelligentsia, Vivace and a few others are good sources for mailorder but pricey. CCM Coffee in Tampa FL is waaaay cheaper and decent - actually very good for the price and tends to be a very dark roast. I used to love Torrefazione Italia's Perugia blend but it was not always as fresh as I'd like. The original Torrefazione owners (they sold out to Seattle's Best) have a new business called Caffe Umbria and have a rock solid blend called Gusto Crema - they sell mostly commercially but will mail order five pound bags. Break it into 1/4 ziplocs, freeze and pull them out one at a time - pretty good system.
It still blows my mind that there isn't one good microroaster/cafe (none that I'm aware of) in Manhattan or North Jersey.
Cheapest machines that are any good? Gaggia Carezza is said to be the best thing out there under $250 - $300 (it's likely about $200 - $225). Solis SL-70 is also pretty good. Don't skimp on a grinder - get a used Rocky or shop for a good price (under $200) on a Cunill Tranquilo - noisy but commercial quality. It's crucial to good quality - inadequate grinder = inconsistent espresso.
The Francis!Francis! machines are in the opinion of many a form over function product but in their defense it should be mentioned that they changed to a different supplier for the innards and are significantly improved over what they were a year or two ago. A Silvia still runs circles around the X1 or the X5 (please don't accuse me of being a bigoted Silvia owner - I've never had one!)
Having the cheap superauto in the office I can readily attest that I'd rather have a $300 espresso machine and use pod espresso - results would be pricier but better.
As all can attest, Silvia is a great machine but at its current price I suggest saving a few more $$ and getting an Expobar with E61 style grouphead for about $600 - $700. It offers the innards and advantages of the $1200 machines like the Isomac Tea or the ECM Giotto but at a far lower price (tradeoff is a less slick and plainer exterior).
Edited by phaelon56, 22 June 2003 - 11:30 AM.