First post here, I think. Years ago (probably 2006), I purchased a Starbucks Barista on your recommendation of it being a solid machine, made in Italy by Saeco (a name I was familiar with), and better yet, Starbucks was selling them quite inexpensively via their 'Annual' sale or the like. At that time I really wasn't into drinking espresso straight and since I couldn't seem to master the art of creating foam via the steam wand, quickly lost interest in the machine. It sat on my kitchen countertop and collected dust. Eventually, it was moved down into the cabinet below. A few years later I started drinking Americanos, then eventually straight espresso. At this time, I started using my aluminum Bialetti stovetop unit (which preceded the purchase of my Barista). It was OK but was a medium to larger size unit and I was the only one drinking from it. My uncle bought me a little aluminum ILSA 'flip' style thereafter, and I appreciated its smaller size. Next, I received a small stainless steel Bialetti as a gift one year and have been primarily using it exclusively since. Several months ago my wife & I had some kitchen work done, which included painting the cabinets. During this time I seized the opportunity to reacquiant myself with my Starbucks Barista. I thoroughly cleaned it and relocated its owner's manual. Rather then put it back under the cabinet, I set it up on top of the butcher block topped cart we have off to the side of our kitchen. Since this time I have become a coffeegeek!
Obviously I have a ton to learn but have enjoyed what I've learned thus far, primarly from reading articles, forum posts & watching videos. I don't currently own a burr grinder but definitely plan to purchase one and likely these 2-3 other parts & accessories simultaneously: 1) non pressurized and/or bottomless portafilter(s) - I realize I can convert my stock pressurized portafilter to non pressurized 2) high quality tamper - likely Reg Barber or Chris King (cycling related).
Thus far I've been purchasing vacuum sealed (canned) Allegro, Lavazza, or Illy pre-ground espresso (insert :::cringe:::, I know) and making lattes, cappuccinos, Americanos, iced mochas, straight double espressos & affogatos. It's been fun. While I'm not quite consistent yet with my milk foaming, I'm OK and have been able to produce good microfoam from time to time. As expected, sometimes the straight espresso shots have tasted good; smoother & brighter and other times they've tasted bitter or sour. Crema formation consistently seems decent with the stock pressurized portafilter, as can be expected (I believe this is one of the pressurized portafilter's benefits, even if 'faux' crema?). Regardless of how the espresso shots turn out, I still drink and enjoy them...just maybe not as much as the better ones. I'm now trying to learn a little bit about temperature surfing this machine but haven't personally experimented with it yet, let alone considered purchasing a PID (not sure this machine merits one).
I guess my question is this - before purchasing the grinder, non-pressurized and/or bottomless portafilter(s), & tamper, is there more I can do to maximize this machine (and my learning process), in it's stock form?
Thank you all. I look forward to my new journey and becoming part of the community here.
+1 Getting your own frothing technique down is the hardest art. Along with a good grinder you will need some good whole bean coffee. I watch a lot of videos from Seattlecoffeegear.com They along with other suppliers have some good roasted coffee as well as anything you may need for your Barista machine. They sell a lot of accessories for the Via Venezia which should fix your machine exactly. To make things easy I would check out their stock and see if you can get your hands on everything your looking for all at once.
Thanks. Yes, I too have seen many of Gail's/SCG's videos, including the frothing one. I now keep my pitchers in the freezer and use 2% milk. I also try to get that clockwise or counterclock-wise motion going while steaming. I've also already had my eye on that bottomless PF & RB tamper! Re: the grinder, I'd like the ability to grind for our Aerobie Aeropress and stovetop espresso makers too. Does this grinder have a removable hopper? Re: the RB tamper - do you have one? If so, do you recommend any particular shape base, as I know RB prefers the C-flat or C-ripple.
I personally don't own one myself but if it's like the Encore which I think it is then yes it does. The plus to this grinder is it can fine tune espresso but has basic movement up to drip and press. I personally like the encore for simplicity but this one has more range.
Removable hopper yes but the hopper must be in place to operate the grinder. Is there a reason you would want to remove it? The height with hopper is about 14 in. if that's your concern. The Preciso would be a good choice for you in my opinion, the grind easily changed for the different types of brewing you want to do. If you go with a non pressurized PF you'll want to start using fresh beans, fresh meaning within two weeks of roast.
BTW unless you plan on getting an Esatto (Baratzas device to stop the grinder when a preset weight has been ground) you should consider putting only as much coffee in the hopper as you are going to grind at a particular time. Otherwise you'll have no real control over how much you grind and end up wasting coffee. As for the tamper, there's no real reason to spend a lot of money on one unless you just want to cause you like it- which of course is your choice- I spent $45 on my Bumper tamper and still enjoy using it very much. I would avoid one with ridges as it defeats the purpose of creating a smooth flat surface on the puck.
...you should consider putting only as much coffee in the hopper as you are going to grind at a particular time. Otherwise you'll have no real control over how much you grind and end up wasting coffee.
As for the tamper, there's no real reason to spend a lot of money on one unless you just want to cause you like it- which of course is your choice- I spent $45 on my Bumper tamper and still enjoy using it very much. I would avoid one with ridges as it defeats the purpose of creating a smooth flat surface on the puck.
Yes, good point. What are your thoughts on this Baratza Virtuoso Preciso vs. the doserless Rocky?
I hear ya', but do appreciate a quality tool. When you say you'd avoid one with ridges, I'm assuming you mean ripples? I'm leaning that way but what are your thoughts on the lifted perimeter edge, as it's supposed to channel the water inwards (to ironically prevent 'channelling')?
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