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Fat Guy

Coffee Plateau

41 posts in this topic

Like sex, good espresso requires a learning curve.

But with espresso..... eliminating all the variables and establishing a consistent process control lets you get the same results again and again.... I can only pray that sex doesn't get that scientific.

Really though.... the Variac is a great mod for those who are otherwise happy with their roaster. There is the standard $100 Variac but I think Coffee Corral in AZ sells one that's about $70 and is said to be adequate. I'm not a hacker by nature but have been advised that using heavy duty dimmer switches is NOT a good idea. I have an Apenroast drum style roaster. The difference between the roasts from this (15 to 18 minutes for early to rolling second crack) and my old Poppery (5 to 6 minutes total roast time) are amazing. The Poppery roasts were indeed very bright - I dont think the drum roast is what makes the Alps roasts so much melower and more interestign (to me) rather it's the longer roasting time. You'l get that with a Variac.

Lever machines are really cool but my take on them is that it's kinda like having an old British sports car - a thing of beauty to behold and in the right hands an ethereal experience to drive but not what you want for everyday transportation. In addition to the learning curve issue. one has about a fifteen minute window in which to make shots with a lever machine while the brewing temps are at the optimal level. Then it's necessary to turn it off to cool down for awhile before turning it on again later to make some more. Get a good E61 style HX machine and you can just bang out great shots one after another and steam milk at the same time.

I don't think a steam toy style espresso maker or even a low end thermoblock pump machine is a good choice for anyone whose taste has developed to reasonably discerning levels. I was able to make milk based espresso drinks with my $80 thermoblock DeLonghi and they were as good as the local Starbucks but the espresso "plateau" was immediate - it didn't take time to get there.

Eventually, Fat Guy, you'll just hjave to bite the bullet and drop about $1,500 on a good espresso machine and grinder but check this out in the meantime - it's a new machine that the guys over at coffegeek just reviewed - sort of an automatic moka pot. It makes something that sounds akin to cafe crema - coffee made under pressure but yet not really espresso

Krups Moka Brew review

A Bodum Santos vacuum system is worth considering but it's just a refinement of what you're getting from French press - not something markedly different. Also IMHO, the Toddy systems are great for cold drinks but I like my hot coffee to be made fresh and hot.

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F.G.,

You could one-up the variac crowd, and for not much more than a 20 amp variac get a PID, like people use to hack the Rancilio's, and instead of programming it for one temperature, give it a ramp/sink program to run your roaster. Same process, only digitally controlled instead of... well, um, uh... digitally controlled.

Or, hell, get a motor driven variac and control it from your pc's serial port.

Damn... I have too many ideas and not enough time or money :wacko:


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.

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Sooooooomeone wants Judas Maccabeus to come down the chimney with an iRoast this Hanukkah. :smile:


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Actually I'm not totally sold on it yet, I'd love to be able to see one in action. Having had no experince with home coffee roasting at all, I could use some guidance.

This Alpenröst (https://www.coffeestorehouse.com/Sub_roasters.htm) looks pretty cool too but for nearly 300 bucks I had better commit to drinking coffee at home like every DAY.

And thats Hannukah Harry, you tartan-wearing freak.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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And thats Hannukah Harry, you tartan-wearing freak.

Hey, pal... at least we get scotch in our stockings!

If the iRoast is an improvement on the Precision model, I'd say you should get it. I've been very happy with my Precision and am definitely planning to get the iRoast when it comes out. In fact, if you want to try the Precision, I'll be out of town 12/20 - 12/28.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Cool, maybe I will stop by and borrow it for a week. Or maybe we can get Steven to borrow it for a week, and I can come by one day and test it with him, since he is the one that is "plateauing". This way both of us can get some exposure to it.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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This Alpenröst (https://www.coffeestorehouse.com/Sub_roasters.htm) looks pretty cool too but for nearly 300 bucks I had better commit to drinking coffee at home like every DAY.

I have an Alp - got a gently used one for $175 incl shipping which was a great deal. It's not ideal for the beginning roaster unless you are patient and have good ears/good snese of smell. There is no window in which one can view the color of the roasting beans. For most roasting newbies. stopping the roast just before the beans reach the desired color level is the easiest way to control roast level. The Alp lacks the viewing window and the motor is nopisy enough that it takes practice to be able to discern the sound of the cracks and know when to stop roasting. I go by the sound of the cracks and the smell of the smoke and do reasonably well but would love to have the new Hot Top. It's a lot snazzier than the Alp but the biggest difference is much more rugged build quality and a viewing window (albeit at a much higher price - about $600).

Alps were known for some QC problems awhile back but it's my understadnignt hat those have been resolved. The manufacturer has had and continues to enjoy a good reputation for standing behind the product and helping get probelms resolved.

As for the cost issue - if you're presently spending $6 - $12 per pound for roasted coffee but can get the same type of beans for $3 - $6 and with greater control over roast level and the opportunity to know exactly when it was really roasted.... the cost of the roaster is not an issue. I do encourage those who've tried the hot air fluid bed roaster to try a drum roast from an Alp or similar device - the drum roast flavor profile is much less bright and more pleasant for many of us although the brighter more acidic flavor profile of the hot air roasted beans does have its adherents.

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After the I-Roast has been out for a while, I may well pick one up just for grins. Although I do currently have two Caffe Rostos, I am now roasting about 85% of my coffee using a heat gun and a stainless steel dog bowl. Details can be found on coffeegeek.com.

If someone is looking to get into roasting inexpensively, you would want to try a popcorn popper or the heat gun method. Given some of the Alps problems, and the difficulty of monitoring the roast, it would not be my first choice for a novice roaster.


Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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Short of freebasing finely ground coffee, I recommend the Balzac method:

Coffee is a great power in my life; I have observed its effects on an epic scale. Coffee roasts your insides. Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring.

Coffee sets the blood in motion and stimulates the muscles; it accelerates the digestive process, chases away sleep, and gives us the capacity to engage a little longer in the exercise of our intellects. Coffee affects the diaphragm and the plexus of the stomach, from which it reaches the brain by barely perceptible radiations that escape complete analysis; that aside, we may surmise that our primary nervous flux conducts electricity emitted by coffee when we drink it. Coffee's power changes over time. "Coffee", Rossini told me, "is an affair of fifteen or twenty days; just the right amount of time to write an opera". This is true. but the length of time during which one can enjoy the benefits of coffee can be extended. For a while- for a week or two at most - you can obtain the right amount of stimulation with one, then two cups of coffee brewed from beans that have been crushed with gradually increasing force and infused with hot water. For another week, by decreasing the amount of water used, by pulverizing the coffee even more finely, and by infusing the grounds with cold water you can continue to obtain the same cerebral power.

When you have produced the finest grind with the least water possible, you double the dose by drinking two cups at a time; particularly vigorous constitutions can tolerate three cups. In this manner, one can continue working for several more days. Finally, I have discovered a horrible, rather brutal method that I recommended only to men of excessive vigor. It is a question of using finely pulverized, dense coffee, cold and anhydrous, consumed on an empty stomach. This coffee falls into your stomach, a sack whose velvety interior is lined with tapestries of suckers and papillae.

The coffee finds nothing else in the sack, and so it attacks these delicate and voluptuous linings; it acts like a food and demands digestive juices; it wrists and twists the stomach for these juices, appealing as Apythoness appeals to her God; it brutalizes these beautiful stomach linings as a wagon master abuses ponies; the plexus becomes inflamed; sparks shoot all the way up to the brain. From that moment on, everything becomes agitated. Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grant army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. Memories charge in, bright flags on high; the cavalry of metaphor deploys with a magnificent gallop; the artillery of logic rushed up with gluttering wagons and cartridges; on imagination's orders, sharpshooters sight and fire; forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink - for the nightly labor begins and ends with torrents of this black water.

from The Pleasure and Pains of Coffee by Honoré de Balzac

Jeez, I love Balzac. :biggrin:

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I hope that you fellows are a little more inventive in RL than you're letting on, because your, um, comments are lacking in the creativity department. But enough about sex and onto coffee. What about Mokas? They get no respect from the OCD geek gadget crowd, who can spend days discussing a 15 vs and 18 degree angle when you hone a knife, but they deserve more attention. When properly made, a shot of coffee from a moka can be a beautiful thing, not espresso and not drip, but it's very own catagory. And they have a pretty steep learning curve too, which gives you plenty of parameters to fool around with to aquire the finesse necessary for the nicest cup, while sidestepping the whole costly long-handled tool/recepticle issue. If you feel like it's not going to give you enough macho geek cred I'm sure you can always talk up theory, actual technique and results with the best of the espresso wonks. There's no need to feel inferior, I think they're harder to get the hang of than a proper espresso machine. Didn't Craig write a piece on one?

regards,

trillium

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What about Mokas? They get no respect from the OCD geek gadget crowd, who can spend days discussing a 15 vs and 18 degree angle when you hone a knife, but they deserve more attention.

Despite appearances.... I'm very non OCD when it comes to espresso but have found that the only way I can get easily reproducible and consistent results is with careful attention to the details of the process. The good news (for me and those around me) is that I'm not a tweaker by nature - once it works for me I don't mess with it and I don't care about the picayune details - I"m not into temperature probes and all the other bells and whistles.

I do think Moka pots are cool and neat and all that but my espresso machine is just so damn easy now that In know how to use it and I'm not inherently lazy but hate doing extra work.

I have tought about getting a little Velox travel espresso maker along with one of those little pocket size brass Turkish grinders. Good espresso is sometimes impossible for me to find when traveling and a good Moka pot would help. Do you have experience with the Velox or something like it that has its own heat source?

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I have tought about getting a little Velox travel espresso maker along with one of those little pocket size brass Turkish grinders. Good espresso is sometimes impossible for me to find when traveling and a good Moka pot would help. Do you have experience with the Velox or something like it that has its own heat source?

I don't, sorry. The only ones I've used are those that you use on the stovetop. It's what we used all the time before I got the Olympia Cremina. I drink tea when I'm on the road.

regards,

trillium

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