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Makin' Espresso w/ One Arm Tied Behind My Back


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#1 Fat Guy

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 02:22 PM

So back when we got engaged -- this is like 11 years ago now -- we registered for an espresso maker. I remember reading various consumer ratings and choosing the Delonghi Caffe Espresso for some reason, though I'm not sure what that reason was. When we got it as a wedding gift, I made about six shots with it, they all totally sucked, and up it went onto a high shelf for a decade.

A week or so ago, the machine resurfaced during spring (well, winter) cleaning and we decided to give it another go. This time, armed with much greater espresso knowledge and access to live expert assistance, we got very good results from this little machine. It appears to have a legitimate pump, and two separate settings for water and steam. This is good, yes? The shots we pulled had nice crema (though this isn't a great challenge to achieve with freshly roasted and ground beans) and was better than what you get at most restaurants, though not as good as a good espresso shot.

We also had decent luck with steaming milk, thought he placement/height/configuration of the nozzle means you have to let part of the machine hang off the edge of the counter in order to get a decent sized vessel under it.

Next project: getting the grind exactly right for this machine. First batch was probably too coarse. Second was probably too fine. Hoping to get something right in the middle for next time.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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#2 Schielke

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 02:33 PM

I smell an upgrade in your future. :wink: :smile:

Ben
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#3 jsolomon

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 05:55 AM

:drool:

Methinks we need a new emoticon to go with that opening espresso maker on Schielke's link!
I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

#4 NVNVGirl

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 01:17 PM

I have one of those DeLonghi espresso makers too....it was the first espresso maker I ever had. I think it did a great job actually, and I still have it as a backup in case of the Krups "Il Caffe Bistro" meltdown. In fact, I think it did a better job of espresso. I ground my coffee very very fine...not quite powder, but close. It takes a little longer for the water to go thru it, but it always came out perfect. The Krups I've got has the same problem with the milk steamer in that you have to hang it off the edge of a surface; the only difference is the Krups is a much bigger machine (it's got a coffee maker also), and for some reason, doesnt' seem to do as good a job of heating the milk; it froths it but it's not very hot. Maybe I just have too much milk in the container. And just in case you don't already know, soymilk froths the best of the milks. Or skim milk, but you just dont' get the great taste when you are wanting a latte. I don't think I'll ever give up my DeLonghi espresso machine! :biggrin:

#5 NVNVGirl

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 01:19 PM

:drool:

Methinks we need a new emoticon to go with that opening espresso maker on Schielke's link!

Wow! And shipping is FREE!! Whatta deal, LOL. :wacko:

#6 hollywood

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 01:55 PM

I smell an upgrade in your future. :wink: :smile:

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#7 phaelon56

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 01:57 PM

Not to rain on anyone's parade ('cause I'd love to have one myself - a La Marzocco that is... not a parade) but keep in mind that the sexy LaMarzocco we're drooling over here requires 220V service, needs to be plumbed in and creates enough heat to make your kitchen into a Russian Steam room in the summer months.

There actually is a special 110v version of this machine that was custom built for the purpose of evaluating the concept of a really high end home espresso machine. I was lucky enough to sample a nice ristretto from this very machine last spring when visiting Vancouver - here's a review of the

LaMarzocco in Mark Prince's basement (aka the Coffee Geek testing lab)

Of more immediate interest due to both price and availability is the new dual boiler 110V machine available from Chris Coffee. It's really a one-of-a-kind in the marketplace at present and well worth considering for anyone wanting to make the jump to a really good machine.

La Spaziale S1 single group dual boiler

Temperature accuracy is one of the paramount issues related to consistently producing great espresso shots. The E61 style HX (heat exchanger) machines currently on the market can do fairly well in this regard but it takes using a few tweaks and tricks to ensure consistency. A properly adjusted dual boiler machine should eliminate this as an issue. In all fairness to the competition, the Reneka Techno is in concept a similar machine but it has limited availability in the US and access to parts/service are a concern. At present, Chris Nachtrieb at Chris Coffee is the only dealer for the new S1 but he's a long time and well established player in the market and has an unrivaled reputation for consistent service after the sale.

As for the small, cheap, pump driven espresso machines - despite its limitations, my little $80 deLonghi turned out a better shot than the average Starbucks and made a very passable cappa or latte (albeit one at a time and very slowly).

#8 cdh

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 02:17 PM

FG-

Same machine, new grinder? What were you grinding with back in the early days of unsatiisfactory espresso? What are you grinding with now?

Getting the grind right is really the key. I find that different beans need different settings, and also that the relative humidity and the season require adjustments in the grinder settings.
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#9 MGLloyd

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 04:01 PM

Owen, when I first looked at the website and saw the one group Linea, my first thought was LaMarz had finally rolled out the consumer-level machine that Mark had tested and written up on coffeekid. I did not notice, as you did, that it requires 220V service and is not a pour-over. I wonder if I can remove it from my cart before it hits the UPS truck!

I kid, I kid. I love my Pasquini Livia and really don't ever anticipate upgrading from it.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd
Mill Creek, Washington USA

#10 Fat Guy

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 04:16 PM

Same machine, new grinder? What were you grinding with back in the early days of unsatiisfactory espresso? What are you grinding with now?

I didn't used to have a grinder at all. I would buy my espresso ground from the place around the corner, which did its own roasting and had big-ass industrial grinders. They never seemed to mind selling in 1/4 pound quantities. But even when I ran home from the place and immediately went to the machine, I couldn't make decent espresso. Now I have a Solis Maestro, which seems to be the minimum acceptable entry level burr grinder. I'm happy with it.

Getting the grind right is really the key.  I find that different beans need different settings, and also that the relative humidity and the season require adjustments in the grinder settings.


As well, the big complaint about the Solis Maestro seems to be that there is some drift in the settings. I'm learning the ins and outs of the mechanism, though.

I'm sure I'll have to upgrade my equipment someday, but right now I'm pleased that I can pull an acceptable shot with just a couple of hundred dollars worth of equipment. My goal for now is to max out the capabilities of these machines. I don't think I'm there yet.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#11 hathor

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 05:10 PM

Just a quick word on the steamed milk.... in Italy, there is a commonly used contraption, sort of a metal milk container, with a removable top and a mesh screen. I'm sure it has a name, but in our family, its the 'chuga-chuga'. You heat the milk and then plunge the screen up and down a few times and it makes superb foamed milk.
As most of the espresso machines make a decent to excellent coffe, we've always had trouble with the milk steaming part, and the chuga-chuga is a god send. Worth tracking down. I've seen glass ones sold here in the States, but they can't go directly onto the heat which makes the whole process more complicated. I've brought so many back for friends, I may as well be an importer.
enjoy!

#12 CRUZMISL

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 05:37 PM

While those "chuga-chuga" devices foam the milk they cannot make a microfoam that will really set your cappa's apart from everyone else. Hell, even most coffee houses can't do it properly. You really need the power of a commercial machine to do it properly.

Here's a pic of my coffee station.

Posted Image
full size

http://www.canamcara...coffeelarge.gif


I'm quite happy with the performance. Fully plumbed and always on :)

Joe

PS Don't mind the grounds. Just had a bunch of people over.

#13 Kenk

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 01:31 PM

Hello Fat Guy,

I am glad to hear you pulled your old machine out to be used again. I am sure you will find that it does help bring your coffee making into another level.

I use a Gaggia Espresso that has a single pump. It is a good manual machine. I am able to make very good espresso and cappuccino if I use it correctly and use good coffee. I am still surprising myself how hard it is to get the best results out of my machine. But I can get excellent coffee if I make it correctly. The results can be as good as anywhere.

I am now using a Pyrex type measuring cup to foam my milk. Although I know most people use stainless steel. I have used mugs I don't care if they break but the measuring cup pours better and makes less of a mess.

My machine came with a foaming attachment for the steaming wand. I noticed the milk foamed really easily but did not heat up. I removed the foaming attachment and steam my milk with the bare wand. It takes a little more technique but the results are better and you get hot milk.

#14 phaelon56

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 08:04 PM

I use a Gaggia Espresso that has a single pump. It is a good manual machine. I am able to make very good espresso and cappuccino if I use it correctly and use good coffee. I am still surprising myself how hard it is to get the best results out of my machine. But I can get excellent coffee if I make it correctly. The results can be as good as anywhere.


I used a Gaggia Baby for about a year or so before getting my Isomac. My experience was very much the same as yours - excellent results if everything was done in just the right way. I cringed and hesitated for quite awhile before making the price jump to ugrade to an E61 style machine. Once I did it I kicked myself for not doing it sooner - the increase in the consistency with which I can make excellent shots is nothing short of remarkable.


My machine came with a foaming attachment for the steaming wand. I noticed the milk foamed really easily but did not heat up. I removed the foaming attachment and steam my milk with the bare wand. It takes a little more technique but the results are better and you get hot milk.


If you refer to the so-called "perfect frothing attachment" that comes with most of the Gaggia machines... the best place to put that little device is in the rubbish bin. Different story for the black plastic frothing sleeve. It's available for about $10 - $12 and is very effective if used properly. I found that the Gaggia did a great job of frothing up the milk if I limited the amount to about six ounces or so.

#15 Fat Guy

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 10:09 PM

I've been using a mini press-pot (without the press apparatus) for steaming milk. It seems to work pretty well. And I've had no trouble getting the milk up to 150 degrees -- it just takes three attempts because the heating element can't get it up to temperature in one continuous burst.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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#16 phaelon56

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 06:30 AM

While those "chuga-chuga" devices foam the milk they cannot make a microfoam that will really set your cappa's apart from everyone else. Hell, even most coffee houses can't do it properly. You really need the power of a commercial machine to do it properly.


Not only a point well taken but one worrthsplitting into a separate thread on microfoam. Worth noting that with practice, good microfoam can be made on a higher end home espresso machines.