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Espresso Newbie Needs Help


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I am visiting my in-laws who have a Francis Francis X1 espresso machine solely for the purpose of countertop art. To the annoyance of my FIL, I plan to make use of it while I am here and teach myself how to make espresso. I have found 95% of the parts for the machine and have purchased 1/4 lbs of espresso beans had them ground fine. I think the only thing I am missing is the tamper.

As I understand it, here is the process for making a cup of espresso with a few questions.

1. Remove the filter holder which has the 1 cup filter disc inside and fill with ground beans... How much do I add for 1 cup?

2. Tamp down the grounds with firm pressure. How much pressure? Any tricks here?

3. Put the filter holder back into the machine and turn the handle until snug.

4. Turn on the power switch and wait until the temperature ready light turns off. What temperature should it reach?

5. Place a cup under the filter holder and turn on the coffee switch. Turn off the switch when the cup is almost full? How much espresso should I get per shot? 1 oz?

When it comes to steaming milk...

1. Turn on the steam wand switch.

2. Fill the pitcher 1/3 with milk.

3. Open the team valve and purge it for a second.

4. Insert wand into milk and turn the steam valve to heat the milk, but not boil it... What temp should I aim for?

5. Wipe off the wand.

Did I miss anything?? Any sage advice or smart ass comments?

Thanks!

Dan

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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Okay... My mother-in-law found a box with additional filters and a filter holder for a double shot. Can someone please explain the difference between the filters?

gallery_61658_6368_16277.jpg

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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I don't know the machine, but would recommend that if you could purge some hot water through the system prior to putting in the filter and handle, you will ensure, or better ensure, anyway, that you are getting properly hot steam (not a bad mixture of hot water and steam) into your coffee. Just a few seconds, insert the espresso filter, then go.

As to your milk, to make sure you're also delivering a relatively pure steam and not mixture of steam and water, purge your wand until you see pure steam; you can use a coffee cup. Not necessary with any pro-line models, most home-line models, even pump delivery ones under several $100's, will need some priming to deliver pure steam. Once you do have that steam, bring the wand towards the bottom of the pitcher - not the top, yet - and bring the milk up to a hot (not scalding) temp. There is a temp ideal, which I've long forgotten (I worked my way through Berkeley by managing "Muffin Mania," and am only going on memory, so forgive any errors), but just cup the stainless pitcher and wait for it to feel "hot," but not exceedingly so. You don't want the milk to scald or boil. Once you've reached this temp, bring - and this is in my opinion the trickiest aspect of a perfect froth - the wand to just below the surface of the milk, and keep it so, so that you get a classic, fine froth developing, and a very characteristic "pitch" to the steaming sound; you follow this "up" as the froth stand develops. The longer you do this, the more you're apt to boil the milk, so be careful. If you find you are getting large bubbles, and a kind of boiling effect, you've either boiled your milk, or you have lifted the wand to high. The best froth comes from the proper feel of the wand just beneath the surface, and carefully following the froth stand up.

Hope it helps!

(edit -sorry, missed some of your post, and your new post. The purge is to get pure steam, so do it long enough to see that - if it's still pouring out water, that will go into, dilute, and ruin your milk). On the filters, from what I can tell, simply variations on a single (shallow filter, single spout) or double (deeper filter, double spout) espresso shot. Cannot tell what some of the other accessories are about, sorry.

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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The difference between the two filters shown in the pic seems to be that one is a porta-filter for the "pod" system, and the other is more of a traditional porta-filter. The traditional porta-filter appears to have all of the standard inserts, plus a couple that I've never seen.

As for making your espresso, I second what Paul said: run at least one round of water through the machine. I recommend that you only make double shots, in lieu of singles, because the machines are best suited to it, and will produce a more consistent shot. Fill your portafilter loosely with the coffee, and with a tamper, pack with about 40psi. This is kind of the hard part, but it will come with practice. If you get your hands on a steel tamper, they should have a depth of about a quarter inch. You'll want the top of the tamping end to sit just barely above the rim of the filter, maybe a millimeter or so.

Espresso is separated into two parts: the body and the crema. The crema is the ligher brown foam that sits on top of the body, and when you're pulling your shot, will be the best indicator of completion. When the espresso coming out of the filter is almost all crema, and the crema itself begins to turn lighter in color, your espresso is ready. If you plan on drinking it straight, then enjoy! Otherwise, get the steamed milk or flavored syrups into the espresso as quickly as you can.

There's a book that will give a lot of in depth information on this, and all things coffee called The Professional Barista. It's a good read.

Edit: A double shot of espresso should yield between 1 and 1.5 oz. Also, just steaming the milk will give you a good amount of very fine foam. You can find steel pitchers in specialty food stores, and restaurant supply stores, and with practice, you'll be able to eyeball the appropriate amount of milk and other ingredients.

Edited by Chefkitty (log)
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Great advice already.

Use the handle on the right and the filter on the top left.

You will need around 14g of ground coffee for the basket. What I do is add the coffee loosely until it fills the filter. Run your finger or something flat across the top so that the unpacked coffee is level with the top of the portafilter.

Then tamp your coffee down solidly but not too solidly (it should compress down to around 1/4 way down the side of the filter (i.e. to 3/4 full).

Put the portafilter filter on machine and extract 2oz (60ml) of coffee. This comes out of the two spouts and is enough for two cups of coffee (put one cup on one spout and another on the other).

You should vary the grind and tamp such that the 60ml shot takes 30secs to run through.

When you heat the milk, make sure that the spout is neither on the bottom of the jug nor on the top so it bubbles. Aim for around the middle of the lot of milk. Hold your hand on the metal jug. Once you cannot hold your hand against it anymore, it is ready so turn off steam, pour, and enjoy.

Good luck.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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One other tip: heat the machine up before grinding the coffee and filling the filter etc. There's no reason to let the coffee hang out for 20 minutes, losing aroma, while it waits for the machine to heat up.

Also, you will get a much better cup of espresso if you grind your own beans, just before pulling a shot. However, this requires a grinder which is espresso-capable, which will set you back at least $120.

Finally, most "espresso blends" are anything but. For espresso, you want a coffee with a medium or light roast. A dark roasted coffee will give you oily, bitter espresso ... and likely gum up the espresso machine.

The Fuzzy Chef

www.fuzzychef.org

Think globally, eat globally

San Francisco

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Thanks for the advice, everyone! I made my first batch this morning. I think it was a little weak, so I will try to tamp it down a little more firmly tomorrow.

My in-laws were holding out on me. I found two books in their collection about coffee and espresso recipes. The coffee book is from the late 70's but had some useful information about how an espresso machine basically works. The book also says that froth should be made before heating the milk because it is easier to make froth in cold milk. Is this true?

I would grind my own beans, but my goal for right now is to understand and learn the process. I bought a 1/4 lbs of Allegro Espresso blend at Whole Paycheck and ground it fine there. Even if I wanted to, my in-laws do not have a grinder and I am not that generous. Once we go back home, I will add it to the long term list of things to buy when money is available.

Dan

Edited by DanM (log)

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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Thanks for the advice, everyone! I made my first batch this morning. I think it was a little weak, so I will try to tamp it down a little more firmly tomorrow.

My in-laws were holding out on me. I found two books in their collection about coffee and espresso recipes. The coffee book is from the late 70's but had some useful information about how an espresso machine basically works. The book also says that froth should be made before heating the milk because it is easier to make froth in cold milk. Is this true?

I would grind my own beans, but my goal for right now is to understand and learn the process. I bought a 1/4 lbs of Allegro Espresso blend at Whole Paycheck and ground it fine there. Even if I wanted to, my in-laws do not have a grinder and I am not that generous. Once we go back home, I will add it to the long term list of things to buy when money is available.

Dan

Interesting discussion on proper tamping.

On the cold milk, yep, that's both my memory from barista days, and my home practice now. Not sure of the science behind it, but my suspicion is that this allows a proper length of steam infusion and froth development/redistribution, before reaching the critical threshold of milk temp (too much, and you end up with not only scalding/bubbles and not foam, but an unpleasant milk flavor). Use as cold a milk as you can muster, would be my ongoing advice.

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Steaming milk is an adventure onto itself. It was a mystery to me how to get the velvety milk-based drinks that you can get from the better cafes (and I’m not talking *$). Then I did what I should have done first: find a great mentor and show up with a gallon of milk :biggrin: My mentor was a local micro-roaster. Here’s what I learned that day.

Properly prepared steamed milk is a micro-foam: perfectly distributed invisible bubbles throughout the entire volume of the milk. With apologies to *$, there isn’t a cap of foam on top of hot milk. When you look into the pitcher, it is thick, shiny, and viscous like white latex paint. And it really becomes second nature once you learn and practice the techniques. It’ll take far longer to read this than it takes to do it. I’ll start steaming at the same time I start pulling a double shot, and I’m ready to pour the milk before the shot completes (total milk steaming is about 20s). Now I have a steam monster, and other machines would probably take longer.

Steaming milk is 2 distinct phases: stretching and texturing. The first stage is stretching, and this is increasing the volume of the milk by adding air. After purging the steam wand of any condensed water, I put the wand deep under the surface and turn on the steam valve. I immediately bring the tip to just under the surface and raise it to keep it just under the surface. You should hear something like Shh-Shh-Shh ripping sound.

Once the volume increases by about 15-20%, then it is time to texture. This is how the surface foam that you’ve just created gets incorporated throughout the volume. The exact process for you here depends on the pitcher shape, volume of milk, steam tip, and steam volume, but the correct results always look the same: you want to get a very active whirlpool of milk. On my setup, I will plunge the tip about ½ into the milk and tilt the pitcher about 30 degrees, and I’ll have an instant whirlpool.

Stop texturing when outside of stainless pitcher is too hot to hold for >2s, and make sure your heat tolerance doesn’t end up scalding the milk. Knock the pitcher on the countertop once or twice to break up any large bubbles, and then swirl it in the pitcher. You’ll soon see the latex look. Pour it into the waiting espresso shot(s). For extra points, pour a rosetta, heart, or apple – latte art really only works with proper micro-foamed milk, so it is a good test.

We started by frothing water + 1 drop of dish soap and pouring the results into a clear glass to make sure that the bubbles were distributed everywhere in the water. Once I mastered the soap, we moved to milk. I was pouring my first rosetta within an hour.

Some other things I’ve pick up on: colder milk steams better, fattier milk is easier to foam, and processing does make a difference (different brands of milk foam differently).

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One more thing I wanted to mention: the roaster suggested separating the phases as I wrote above when you're starting out since it'll be easier to figure out what's happening wrong. Once you master the techniques, then you can start combining the stretching and texturing into a single phase (incorporate air while whirlpooling).

Some videos from youtube showing the basics:

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Thanks again everyone! i am getting a little better at it, but milk is still my biggest weakness. I think I need a smaller container for the milk due to the small wand. Not that it would matter. I have been instructed not to use it because it makes too much noise and wakes up my brother in law... whatever.

We have created a relatively new drink, AFIK. I have been adding a spoonful of cajeta, a Mexican goat milk caramel, to my cappuccinos and dusting it with a little cinnamon. My wife is now addicted.

Dan

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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