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Lavazza v Fresh Ground Coffee


primowino
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I have had a Francis Francis X1 for about 3 years making espresso and lattes every day. I have nearly always used pre-ground coffee, usually Lavazza - or Illy when I'm feeling flush. I have usually been fairly pleased with the results.

However the X1 is getting a bit tired and leaky and it seems a good excuse to upgrade. I may get an Isomac Giada or splash out for a Millenium. Everyone that writes about machines like these on sites like coffeegeek (a good title from the posts that are there) are grinding there own coffee fresh each time.

So my questions:

i) For very good quality machines do you think I will notice a big difference if I start grinding my own coffee?

ii) If so are there any recommendation for where I can buy good beans in the UK?

iii) Are Isomac machines the way to go?

Thanks

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I'm not sure that the Super Giada is much of an upgrade from the Francis Francis. I believe that both are single-boiler machines. The Millenium is a Heat Exchange (HX) machine with the E61 group head, so it's a step up, especially if you make milk-based drinks and like to make several espressos in a short time (e.g. entertaining at a dinner party).

I have a Mondiale, which is similar to the Millenium. The pump is noisy and the pressure adjustment is tricky, but it is basically a very capable machine. If you can budget for a HX machine and a decent grinder, I'd go for it. But even a cheap machine will perform better with freshly ground beans compared to a high end machine with preground coffee.

Sorry I can't help with a source of beans in the UK.

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primowino: Years of working in the specialty coffee industry under optimal conditions matched by few shops in North America has led me to one conclusion: good espresso is hard to come by, and great espresso is next to nonexistent, even under the best circumstances possible. The reasons are too numerous to list, but I generally like to leave espresso to the professionals (and I am one), which in itself is a risky proposition. Will grinding beans to order for a dinky home machine be a substantial improvement over a pod-based system? Yes. Will using beans from a local micro-roaster produce a significantly better cup than what you've drinking? Yes. Will it be close to good espresso? No.

Please understand that I am no coffee snob. I thoroughly enjoy Lavazza, slurp Dunkin' Donuts and keep pre-ground coffee at home for a drip machine. At a certain point caffeine is caffeine, and there's no reason to be uppity about it. However, I think it's informative to understand coffee within a larger context. Here are answers to your enumerated questions.

On (i), please note that in order to fully enjoy the quality of ground-per-cup espresso it will be necessary to plonk down a pretty penny for a grinder capable of giving the necessary granularity for fine-tuned adjustments. Otherwise, there'd be no point in upgrading from your current system.

For (ii), I'd recommending looking at this list compiled at Lucid Cafe's website.

And Isomacs, to answer (iii), are perfectly good machines for your purposes.

Much peace,

ian

Edited by IML (log)
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The previous replies, Ian's in particular, have all made excelllent points. I'll deviate a bit although I agree in principle with most of what's been said.

1) For good quality home espresso machiens and even some of the lower end ones you'll notice a HUGE difference in the quality of your espresso if you grind your own fresh from whole beans. But that is predicated on having good fresh beans (and I don't mean a can of Lavazza or Illy whole bean that you just opened) and also a very good grinder. The Mazzer Mini or Macap M4 are considered to be the ideal high end home grinder but there are others - less expensive ($150 - $275 US price range) - that are good enough.

2) I can recommend Hasbean as an ethical and reliable source of top shelf fresh roasted varietals for the UK market. I am personally familiar with them and know they have a strong committment to quality.

3) In your market I think the Isomac is as good a choice as any and definitely spring for an E61 HX styel machine such as the Milllenium over a less expensive variety. The ECM Giotto - possibly sold as the Euro 2000 in your market - is also an excellent choice but is likely a bit pricier than the Isomac.

Unlike Ian I won't sugest that you leave quality espresso shots only to the professionals. But I do encourage all and sundry to get off their duff and visit local independent cafes as often as possible to consume copious amounts of espresso drinks (and please tip your hard working barista generously :biggrin: )

There are places, times and circumstances when having access to excellent espresso at home is priceless. Assume that you'll have to spend $150 - $450 US for a good grinder and $500 to $1500 for a good espresso machine. Add $20 - $50 for a tamper, a bit more for steaming pitcher etc. and then a healthy amount of patience for the learning process.

If you do or did live in an area where there simply are no good local cafes serving quality espresso then you might want options other than gopping out for espresso (it was my dilemma when I lived in New Jersey just west of NYC and it's still an issue for me here in Syracuse unless I visit Ithaca - a 60 mile drive). Heck... I have friend who live on the Upper West Side in Manhattan who make their own espresso at home because there's no place close enough to their neighborhood where they can go out to get shots as good as what their Silvia/Rocky combo produces. Yes - they could go way downtown or to Brooklyn but sometimes (most times) that's just not practical.

It took me a period of many months and much reading on sites such as Coffeegeek before I finally started producing really good shots at home. But even my less than stellar efforts were far superior to Starbucks or the two crappy local cafes in my small NJ town. Then there's the Saturday Morning Bathrobe Factor (surely you don't want me in your cafe with my tattered old bathrobe and fuzzy slippers - do you?)

To this day I can still get the most consistent shots by visiting a location where they have a great comemrcial espresso machine, properly trained baristas, a good process control and excellent fresh coffee ground by the shot. But I still love pulling shots at home and the only way you'll pry my Isomac from my cold dead hands is if you slip a La Marzocco GS 3La Marzocco GS 3 into them to replace it :raz: .

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phaelon56: I would never discourage a person from trying to make espresso at home; rather, I employ a very simple cost-benefit analysis, which informs me most people don't want to spend the time and money necessary for decent espresso in their own kitchen. In fact, I would never spend that kind of money to make good espresso in my pyjamas. Bad drip is fine by me. :laugh:

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You'll notice a HUGE difference grinding your own coffee, and although it requires a bit of commitment and outlay, you can make good espresso at home. For example, I have an almost brand new commercial one-group Iberital machine, which I swapped for a two-group I won on ebay - I kept the commercial grinder, external flojet pump and steel knockout drawer which came in the ebay lot, which cost £350 in total (what's that - about $650?). Admittedly, I took a gamble, and got lucky, but, at the very least, check out some of the many ex-commercial grinders going on ebay.co.uk - in general, these machines (Mazzers, Compaks, Rossis etc) are pretty much indestructible, and the most you'd need to do is get replacement burrs, for about £50.

Hasbean took a lead from Charlie Massey at HillandValley, and for many, Charlie is still the premier micro-roaster. (If you want to provoke him, send Charlie an email asking why he doesn't stock Fairtrade beans...).

There's a newish player on the UK machine market - bellabarista, who are importing some of the more exciting new HX machines. For a while, in the UK, you'd struggle to find much more than Isomacs, but now the Brewtus, Andreja Premium and Izzo machines are available (I have NO connection with this company, and cannot vouch for them - simply passing on info).

Finally, If you're in the UK, you really should join the toomuchcoffee forums, which although they're often a hasbean lovefest (Steve was one of the founder members of the site) are indispensable for European coffeeheads.

Sheffield, where I changed,

And ate an awful pie

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If you're considering spending the money on an Isomac Millennium, don't just consider, but budget in a grinder.

You can make pretty good espresso with a crappy machine, but fresh beans and a good grinder. There's NO way you can make decent espresso with preground or a bad grinder. The grinder is more important than the machine.

Once you've had a good shot prepared by any decent machine and a good grinder, you'll never go back to pods or preground. The difference is night and day. Not only should you grind yourself, but you should grind fresh for every shot. It makes that much of a difference.

Isomac's are fine choices. If you make many milk-based drinks, the Millennium is great, but if your focus is mainly on espresso and your budget is limited, a single boiler might be sufficient. I don't know about the Giada that much, but there are a few good machines in that class. Rancilio Silvia, Solis SL90, ECM Botticelli, etc... I'm sure I've left out a few, but that's all I can think of right now. Myself, I'm considering buying a Quickmill Andreja Premium and currently have a Silvia. I hope that will be the last upgrade I make in a while, but upgrade fever hits hard.

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phaelon56:  I would never discourage a person from trying to make espresso at home; rather, I employ a very simple cost-benefit analysis, which informs me most people don't want to spend the time and money necessary for decent espresso in their own kitchen.  In fact, I would never spend that kind of money to make good espresso in my pyjamas.  Bad drip is fine by me.  :laugh:

Ian: Yes... I understand your point but I'm a slave to my periodic impulsive desire to have a decent if not very good espresso when I want it without leaving the house. I cringed at the thought of spending $1500 on an espresso machine and grinder when I first took that plunge.

But then I did a realistic calculation of the payback period and the extenuating circumstances (for me). My drink of choice is a traditonal (5 or 6 oz) capp with a double ristretto shot - or else a machiatto if the espresso is good enough to support it(very few are). When I lived in NJ the closest approximation I could get was a really crappy doublke shot 8 oz latte at Starbucks in Hasbrouck Heights - a ten minute drive each way and dinged for about $4 every time I bought one. Ouch.

My equipment payback period was about two years. Admittedly, now that I'm working in a shop or there for one reason or another six days per week - I make drinks at home far less often. Due to the fact that I can use the blend of my choice (rather than what the show owner dictates) I still get better drinks at home.

But I do promise to visit Cafe Grumpy on my next NYC trip and I also promise not to show up in my pyjamas (but I reserve the right to wear fuzzy slippers).

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  • 1 month later...

Fresh coffee is crucial. You will notice a difference with freshly ground coffee, but it's more than the time of grind: the time of roast is also important.

The roast should be within the last 10 days (enthusiasts claim that 3-7 days after roast is primetime, before that the flavors haven't developed and after that the quality begins to fall -- of course, this all depends on the beans used). The grind should be within the last couple minutes.

Anything beyond these two requisites and you experience a sharp decline.

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Fresh coffee is crucial.  You will notice a difference with freshly ground coffee, but it's more than the time of grind: the time of roast is also important.

The roast should be within the last 10 days (enthusiasts claim that 3-7 days after roast is primetime, before that the flavors haven't developed and after that the quality begins to fall -- of course, this all depends on the beans used).  The grind should be within the last couple minutes.

Anything beyond these two requisites and you experience a sharp decline.

I agree about the fresness factor. Also very interesting is that although most beans deliver great results for drip or press pot coffee within 24 hours after roasting (apart from a bit of bloom in the brewing process due ot the extra Co2 being released)... most espresso blends yield much better results when allowed to rest for 3 to 5 days after roasting. Thus means if you buy from a roaster that ships fresh (i.e. on day of roast) and you use a service like Priority Mail - you'll get the beans at just about the optimal time to begin using them.

I continue to be amazed when I pull a few shots from a blend I worked up from just-roasted beans and think "Hmmm... not bad but could be a bit better". And then three or four days later I pull a few shots from the same batch of beans and it's stellar.

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Fresh coffee is crucial.  You will notice a difference with freshly ground coffee, but it's more than the time of grind: the time of roast is also important.

The roast should be within the last 10 days (enthusiasts claim that 3-7 days after roast is primetime, before that the flavors haven't developed and after that the quality begins to fall -- of course, this all depends on the beans used).  The grind should be within the last couple minutes.

Anything beyond these two requisites and you experience a sharp decline.

I agree about the fresness factor. Also very interesting is that although most beans deliver great results for drip or press pot coffee within 24 hours after roasting (apart from a bit of bloom in the brewing process due ot the extra Co2 being released)... most espresso blends yield much better results when allowed to rest for 3 to 5 days after roasting. Thus means if you buy from a roaster that ships fresh (i.e. on day of roast) and you use a service like Priority Mail - you'll get the beans at just about the optimal time to begin using them.

I continue to be amazed when I pull a few shots from a blend I worked up from just-roasted beans and think "Hmmm... not bad but could be a bit better". And then three or four days later I pull a few shots from the same batch of beans and it's stellar.

Why not really go over the edge and try homeroasting, you can't get any fresher. It's as easy as making popcorn and very similar. Check out www.sweetmarias.com or the Homeroasting forums on Coffeegeek.

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Haha, I roast weekly. Unroasted beans keep for a nice long time, months instead of days, and you can't beat the price!

I go through greencoffee.coop and find myself with great beans at $1-3/lb (vs. $10-15).

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