itsjustaboutcoffee Senior Member Joined: 10 Nov 2012 Posts: 6 Location: montreal Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Sat Nov 10, 2012, 2:19am Subject: Grinding overrated?
I keep reading this on this site: "the grinder is more important than the coffee machine", "the espresso machine is the accessory to the grinder" ... alright, my Baby Gaggia is 25 years old, and I've never owned a grinder, I just go and buy ground coffee twice a week from a shop nearby that do roast their beans, or even worst, I must admit, I sometime buy that pre ground can of Illy from the grocery store, which to my palate is awesome coffee. I am thinking of getting a grinder, but keep it real guys, a grinder without anything to make coffee is useless, nobody can argue with that. My coffee machine allowed me to pull a 3-4 great shot of espresso every days for the last 25 years. I must be doing something right, my coffee might not be the perfect espresso for you guys, but I can tell you this, it's consistently better than Starbucks, better than any coffee from my friends who all have super auto machines, and they agree with that, better than any coffee that comes out of a Nespresso machine, which are all over and again, I know owners of those that agree with me. True, I do need to be more solid on the tamping with coffee that's a few days old, and it's not as flavourfull than the first one of the batch, but not enough so to make the previous sentence untrue. So yes, I do own a semi automatic, and weirdly, it's about....convenience... I would never want to wait for more than 5-10 minutes for my morning coffee...Gaggia allowed me that, but it's dead now, 25 years, not so bad. Is this possible that all this raving about great grinders comes from people that owns machines that are just finicky? All I see around is people with average machines, like the Isomac super giada, or even the great Silvia, that keep being unable to pull a decent shot without having the perfect grinding setting, the freshest beans, or else it just doesn't work! Is this really about knowing what you're doing, or some really raved about machines just are not up to the task of home espresso making. By the way I don't know what a pressurized filter is and I consider my coffee to be real espresso! So yeah, time to upgrade, my obvious choice will be to...to not upgrade and get a Gaggia classic...I'd like those fancy HX, they're nice...but after all those years of making espresso, feels like there's something I don't get...for people here it seems so obvious, like you want to make espresso, which grinder are you planing to get? don't know, do I need a grinder? is something cheap like the Baratza encore will be an "upgrade" just for the sake of having freshly ground coffee in my cup...or a waste of my money, do I really "need" a grinder? considering I'm happy with my coffee thanks for the inputs.
Posted Sat Nov 10, 2012, 6:00am Subject: Re: Grinding overrated?
I went through the same questioning process. Could they really be right? The difference in my path was that I used espresso pods for 7+ years. I tried using pre-ground coffee and a couple of different low-medium cost grinders ($50-200). Eventually I upgraded my machine and grinder and began using fresh roasted beans. Truly, the difference is amazing. Your pallate may not be able to discern the differences at first; it took me a few months. However, the difference in crema amount, flow rate control, and espresso taste is phenomenal.
The difference the better grinders make: 1) very fine setting changes can be made and kept consistent 2) the larger burrs produce more consistent grinds
The difference the fresh roasted beans make: 1) more chemicals are retained in the beans that allow for greater taste variation 2) the beans aren't "stale". I'm not sure what is really going on but the taste difference can be noticed.
The combination of these differences makes for a real difference. I upgraded my machine first then my grinder. After I had the grinder for a couple of months my new espresso machine had a problem. I needed to use my trusty old Starbucks Barista machine for two months. That machine coupled with fresh beans and my new grinder produced very good espresso.
Getting the best grinder you can afford (I think that a refurb Baratza Vario is the lowest I'd recommend or refurb a used 64mm commercial grinder) and get a "decent" espresso machine will give you substantially better espresso. However, you can certainly do what works for you.
Posted Sat Nov 10, 2012, 8:35am Subject: Re: Grinding overrated?
I would suggest going to places like St. Myriade and Cafe Henri there in Montreal and having some espresso (search around and you can find lots of Thrid Wave espresso there, a quick Google search would indicate. I just picked those two names out of a hat). If you don't see any difference between that and what you've been making, then you don't need to change anything. Not everybody was born to be a geek.
RichardCoffee Senior Member Joined: 2 Dec 2010 Posts: 127 Location: Long Beach Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: gaggia baby twin, mini... Grinder: fiorenzato pietro 63mm,... Roaster: weber grill with rk drum,...
Posted Sat Nov 10, 2012, 9:14am Subject: Re: Grinding overrated?
I agree that it's possible to get a very passable - certainly better than Starbucks - shot from a Gaggia, even with preground coffee. I have done it on my Gaggia Baby Twin and on an old Gaggia Coffee. I think the Gaggias are very forgiving. Still, I don't regret moving to a Mini Vivaldi and a K10 grinder. It just makes life easier, more fun, less messy. Plus it satisfies some inner longing I guess.
itsjustaboutcoffee Senior Member Joined: 10 Nov 2012 Posts: 6 Location: montreal Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Sat Nov 10, 2012, 10:04am Subject: Re: Grinding overrated?
Hi guys, thanks for the reply, yeah first I'm not pretending to make the best coffee in town, that's why I used Starbucks as a known reference. So yeah, I ordered a gaggia Classic, It's just physically impossible for me to wait more than 10 minute in the morning for a boiler to be ready. Now to add to my point, Do you guys agree that the coffee is consistently good in Italy? I've spend some time there, and I was pretty much happy all the time...I'll talk about my town...coffee is also consistently good in little Italy, they just know what they are doing, but you know what, 80% of those caffe just use the Lavazza in that blue bag, an other 15% maybe use fantini, two very big companies that don't write a roast date on their packaging.... Very very few roast their beans, import insanely expensive beans, and those specialty shop will sometime make an unforgettable coffee, but it's absolutely not certain, results are actually uneven...In my opinion, Illy is actually a step UP from lavazza, and yes, i can taste difference and recognize a good shot...but my point is: there is greatness to that known and very widespread taste of the basic italian espresso. Having said that I'm happy with my coffee, what I want to ask is if I decide to go cheap, people do say that you can grind fine enough with a Baratza Encore, is it something that I'm actually gonna use? is commercially ground coffee better than what I can obtain from a grinder that cheap or is it just gonna sit there? remember my machine will be a '"forgiving" one, but hey I do recognize that freshly ground is better, I'm not debating that, thanks!
Posted Sat Nov 10, 2012, 10:32am Subject: Re: Grinding overrated?
Are you using an enhanced portafilter? If so, then those can make a beverage that is consumable with a wide range of grinds. If you are using a standard basket in the portafilter, then I would suggest that you are either the luckiest home barista on this board or you have never had a really great espresso to know the difference.
So the answer to your question, based on the experiences of folks who have used a wide range of equipment and in various combinations, is "no." The grinder is NOT overrated.
Coffeenoobie Senior Member Joined: 11 Dec 2011 Posts: 3,036 Location: PNW Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: N S Oscar Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sat Nov 10, 2012, 12:19pm Subject: Re: Grinding overrated?
I would say that I used the same machine and beans with 2 different grinders and yes, I could tell the difference when I upgraded grinders. It was like day and night. YMMV and YTMD (your taste may differ).
Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.
Posted Sat Nov 10, 2012, 12:54pm Subject: Re: Grinding overrated?
I tried many different espressos including Lavazza, Illy, and three other Italian espressos and 15 or so US specialty roasters. I find that the espresso beans run from $16-$25 per pound with shipping. The Illy canned beans are at least as expensive as most of the specialty roaster beans. In the supermarket, it's tough to find espresso beans for less than $8 per 10-12 oz so I don't think you save much by using Lavazza or Illy beans. If you buy bulk roasted coffee you might save a few bucks. If you've never tried using fresh beans ground right before making espresso you'll not know how spending a few more dollars per pound can really make a difference in taste.
JohnLyn Senior Member Joined: 15 Aug 2011 Posts: 243 Location: Golden, BC, Canada Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: La Spaziale Mini Vivaldy Grinder: Vario Drip: Bonavita Roaster: Toastess popper
Posted Sat Nov 10, 2012, 1:01pm Subject: Re: Grinding overrated?
I discovered coffee because of little italy in Montreal and would go out of my way to have an espresso at Cafe Italia. After Cafe Italia I stopped ordering espresso and cappuccino at "starbucks" like places. Now that i knew what good espresso could be, there was no point. So I think you know the taste of good coffee. And now there is Cafe St-Henri, Myriade, Pikolo (my runaway favourite). different style from the Italians and so wonderful.
If you want to recreate little italy coffee at home I would say that you need a good grinder. If you are happy with the results you have been getting then who cares. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", taste is so subjective.
I have helped friends dramatically improve their drip/stove top/french press coffee simply by buying fresh beans and getting a burr grinder like the encore. Two of my friends noticed a significant difference by buying fresh beans and purchasing a virtuoso Grinder matched with their Breville Cafe Roma and their Starbucks Barrista (I was shocked by the powerful steam that comes from that machine!!). It works in their machines but it literally sits on the finest setting so there is little possibility of adjustment and the coffee flows quicker then what I am aiming for and doean't get the flavours that I am seeking. But it still makes an enjoyable espresso that kicks butt over Starbucks, but doesn't hit the standard of Little Italy or the third waver's.
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