Posted Tue May 1, 2012, 3:08pm Subject: Our espresso journey.
I've been silently lurking (not trolling) this board for a few months now since my wife and I started delving into the world of home espresso.
Long story short, she wasn't going to be working at Starbuck's for much longer and she knew she'd be spending a fortune on fancy drinks if we didn't learn how to do it at home. We've since realized why real coffee drinkers hate Starbuck's so much.
Now for my confession. I don't drink coffee. But I love making my wife happy and she loves coffee and I like the art and precision of the barista even if I don't taste the results. I'm also very handy at fixing espresso machines it turns out.
It's been a rollercoaster of equipment... Almost all 2nd hand.
Machines Solis Crema Elektra Cappuccina Starbuck's (Saeco) Sirena - got this for $20 - just needed a hose mended. - these first three have been donated to the extended family. Loved the Solis. Rancilio Silvia - Our main machine at the moment. Picked it up for $50. Ascaso Steel Uno - Seemed like a good machine to pair with my Baratza grinder that I'm eventually going to sell but it turned out to be in rough shape internally. Rancilio Epoca 2 group - newest acquisition, picked it up for $50 with a grinder... 240V plumbed.... I think this might be too much, but it was $50.
Grinders Baratza Virtuoso Preciso - Bought this new when we started... read so much on here about the grinder being more important than the machine. Macap M4 Nuovo Simonella MDU - Free with the Epoca.
Anyway, thought I'd say hi and actually get myself into this community.
frank828 Senior Member Joined: 23 Feb 2011 Posts: 581 Location: Los Angeles Expertise: Professional
Posted Tue May 1, 2012, 3:27pm Subject: Re: 1st time post... and a confession.
welcome to coffeegeek!
you probably meant that you've been lurking as trolling generally has a negative connotation.
btw first thing that came to mind when you said that you dont drink coffee was what kind of coffee you were brewing as there are soooo many different coffees out there that taste so completely different than what you may be used to. or is it a caffeine thing?
Posted Tue May 1, 2012, 6:29pm Subject: Re: 1st time post... and a confession.
Totally trolling... heh... don't know how I got that wrong.
Anyway... no kind of coffee... just never developed a taste for it. But it's funny, pulling shots for my wife I can definately smell the difference between something from fresh local beans compared to the old starbuck's beans that my wife marked out before she quit. Starbuck's espresso smells like crap. :P
Coffeenoobie Senior Member Joined: 11 Dec 2011 Posts: 3,083 Location: PNW Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: N S Oscar Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Wed May 2, 2012, 3:06pm Subject: Re: 1st time post... and a confession.
I didn't drink coffee either. I did drink stained milk with a ton of sugar and chocolate every now and then. Since making my own I am starting to drink my coffee drinks with both less milk and sugar. Yesterday, I got a small Euro style cappuccino and drank it with no sugar that is a huge change for me in less than 6 months. But Spella cafe says italian style espresso so I am not sure that even straight it would have the bite of most PNW espressos. It was insanely smooth. And they used the hand lever machines instead of the semi of most shops. I am not sure how much taste difference that makes or if it is the beans. I wish we had gotten some beans now.
Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 8,215 Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A. Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32 Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major Vac Pot: 40s era Silex Drip: Msl. Com. brewers Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu May 3, 2012, 7:52am Subject: Re: 1st time post... and a confession.
HI and welcome. Trolling, to post something with the intent of stirring up contraversy or to get an arguement started. Lurking, to stay in the shadows, read but not to contribute to the discussion.
A lot of lurkers do start posting when they have a question that they can't find an answer to, welcome to the board and out of the shadows, you EX lurker, you!
It isn't so much that there is a HATE of Starbucks rather, there is much better available. I give Starbucks credit for raising the average persons expectation of coffee from that which was associated with gas stations (before gas stations began "proudly served Starbucks" LOL)
Where their model went wrong from a coffee nuts point of view is that they got too big. When they first started, they placed quality above all. The said the same things we say here, they served very very good coffee from their one store. As the chain grew, they need to have a consistent product from store to store, coffee is a product that changes in flavor even in as small of a difference of which side of the hill of the same farm the trees grew on.
When roasting, the darker you roast, the less difference you taste between the beans and the more you taste the flavor of the roast until you only have charcoal and there is no real difference between anything you make with the burnt beans. This allows you to have flavor consistency between stores. Starbucks managed to get the public to buy into the idea that this "burnt" coffee was the way it was SUPPOSED to be! Two points to Starbucks for great marketing. The sad thing is that their NEW LIGHT roast coffee is STILL roasted so dark that a lot of us here consider it to be burnt but it IS lighter than their regular roast so they are not lying.
When you over roast your coffee, you no longer need good beans, as all you taste is the roast anyway and to buy GREAT beans for the tens of thousands of stores they have, well do you REALLY think they are using the TOP of the quality out there and everyone ELSE is using lessor grade beans than them? Why then are others able to get great flavor from the left overs? Because they are not the leftovers, they are the top ranking beans.
This is not to say that Starbucks buys CRAP, not at all, there is plenty of buyers for those beans from the big coffee sellers such as Folgers etc, THEY really do buy the crap, bottom grade.
The next issue with Starbucks from a coffee lovers point of view is that they do not date the beans in a way that the consumer can make a choice about. At room temp, fresh beans is ONLY two weeks from the day they were roasted. If there is a "Best BY" date on the bag, keep walking and do not buy them, you have no way to know when they were roasted and how old they are and your chances of getting them in under two weeks from the roast date, is very slim at best.
Fresh coffee should smell clean and inviting, not rancid and stale.
In short, Kudos to Starbucks for raising the bar on coffee but shame on them for walking away from the bar they set in the first place.
In real life, my name is Wayne P. Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!
Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
Posted Tue May 8, 2012, 8:25pm Subject: Re: 1st time post... and a confession.
Don't even know where to start with the Epoca... first have to pick up a 240V extension cord to even try powering it on... then have to work out something to temporarily plumb it in... might be too much work to be work it.
Cleaned up the NS MDU pretty good... don't think it had ever been cleaned before. Might need new burrs.
Had some experience with this already since the Macap M4 we bought needed a good cleaning when we bought it (not near as bad as the MDU).
Retrofitted the V3 steam valve and wand onto our V1 Silvia... not sure if I like it better or not yet. Also put a water softener attachment into the Silvia's tank.
Don't know what to say about that Ascaso machine... I think it's possesed. Pretty sure the steam tstat was bad so it kept popping the safety. Ordered a Gaggia steam tstat but I think the 145C tstat is a little too high for the 165 safety tstat in this thing... still pops. Have to find a 135 screw in steam tstat. Plus some gaskets need replacing because it leaks all over when it gets up to brew temp (from the group and the steam wand).
Posted Tue May 15, 2012, 11:50am Subject: Re: 1st time post... and a confession.
... When roasting, the darker you roast, the less difference you taste between the beans and the more you taste the flavor of the roast until you only have charcoal and there is no real difference between anything you make with the burnt beans. This allows you to have flavor consistency between stores. Starbucks managed to get the public to buy into the idea that this "burnt" coffee was the way it was SUPPOSED to be! ...
I agree with your feelings about over-roasted coffee. But I thought Starbucks' model of overly-dark roasts was formed by their pre-business association with the founder of Peet's Coffee? From what I recall reading of Alfred Peet, he was a serious dark roast fanatic! (And the one time I tried brewing Peet's coffee at home it was like brewing up a pot of Kingsford briquets!)
... When you over roast your coffee, you no longer need good beans, as all you taste is the roast anyway and to buy GREAT beans for the tens of thousands of stores they have, well do you REALLY think they are using the TOP of the quality out there and everyone ELSE is using lessor grade beans than them? Why then are others able to get great flavor from the left overs? Because they are not the leftovers, they are the top ranking beans. ...
I agree, I'm sure there are different quality levels of arabica beans available to volume buyers like Starbucks. In 2008 Starbucks' CEO said he would only ever use arabica beans (as opposed to blending in any robustas). But that doesn't mean they're the best quality arabicas, does it? What I felt when tasting a straight shot of Starbucks' espresso is that it was "very plain" tasting. That is to say, it was like a really concentrated cup of drip coffee, devoid of any character. To me this makes the most sense if you're trying to appeal to the widest market. Of course, many of us hanging around here are interested in unique flavors, not mainstream ones.
"Just what I need - another 'geek' label..." - my friend Mark, on being told of Coffee Geek's existence
Thought I'd post an update. A lot has happened in the past few months.
Gave up on the Epoca... that thing's an old beast and completely impractical for home use.
Found a used Wega Airy for a decent price and decided to pick it up and play with a HX machine.
When I got it the guy said it had been leaking from the autofill solenoid but he had a replacement.
It was also missing the drip tray and grille but I figured they would be easy enough to find (turns out they're pretty hard to find - anyone have any suggestions)?
It needed quite a bit of cleaning and descaling (tried using CLR - big mistake - took forever to get that smell/taste out).
Replaced the solenoid but the guy had bought a 3-way, but it works fine with the tip capped off.
When the replacement group gasket and shower screen came I used it and it makes pretty good espresso and lattes.
Then I came across something else.
Used Nuova Simonelli Appia 1 Group 110V for $500 on kijiji (used classified site). He said it was broken - not holding steam pressure - and he was quoted $400 for the fix. I figured it was probably a $50 part and $350 labor so I went to see it - an hour away.
I read up on it all I could and when I got there I got my first disappointment. It had the AutoSteam wand. Everything I read was that that thing sucked, but that it was easily replaceable. But whatever, I bought it anyway.
Plugged it in and it heated up. A little steam leaking out of the vacuum valve... whatever, gave it a jiggle and it stopped. Almost got up to pressure and started leaking out the 3way valve for the electronically controller hot water spout. Opened up the solenoid and it was completely gunked up. Tossed it in vinegar, reinstalled and it works fine. Gets up to full pressure with no leaks. Awesome.
Next problem... nothing coming out the grouphead when the brew cycle is started. When the cycle is stopped the 3way valve starts pissing water. Okay... unscrew the solenoid and it's completely scaled up.
Okay full descaling before we go any further. Finally got my hands on some citric acid crystals (finally poked into the middle eastern grocery store), took apart the grouphead and immersed it overnight. Filled the boiler and HX with the solution and let it sit overnight as well.
Put it all back together and things are working great.
Looked into how to swap the steam wand and the parts I'd need to order from NS. Looks like the swap done properly costs over $300 to do by the books ordering from NS (shipping to Canada is crazy). So... time to hack it together. Used a collection of pipes from the ancient Rancilio Epoca along with one of it's steam wands.
Next morning (this morning) my wife said I made her one of the best drinks she's had outside of a really highend specialty shop. The espresso was perfect, crema wasn't bitter, foam had a gloss to it that I've never got before.
I think this one's a keeper. Just have to order the actual NS steam wand from espressoparts as the rancilio wand's angle is a little wrong, can't actually position it over the drip tray without rotating it around to the back. I should also probably redo the pipes to something that isn't so much of a hack job. Any recommendations on where to get the metric copper pipe and the connectors in Canada?
I'll try to remember to take some pics cause I know you guys love the pics. :)
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