branmuffin17 Senior Member Joined: 24 Sep 2013 Posts: 69 Location: Santa Ana, CA Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Tue Nov 19, 2013, 5:01pm Subject: Some things I've learned so far...
Here are some things I've learned in my brief experience of researching, buying, and using an espresso machine and grinder for the first time...keep in mind, these are only my experiences, and may not apply to anyone else (and may not be correct for others!)
Research helps tremendously, but there is so much info out there that it can make you crazy with self doubt and second-guessing.
Reading all you can is good, but watching videos of the processes are better.
Going to an espresso expert's house to experience first-hand is probably the best help of all.
For a noob, a naked portafilter is absolutely the way to go. It's also just fun to watch.
Frothing milk with good microfoam is pretty easy. Latte art is not.
Practice makes...better. After a month of consistent use, I actually feel like I sort of know what I'm doing now (I felt so lost at the beginning). I'm at the point where I can watch the first few seconds of extraction and know that it'll probably be a decent shot.
Beans all behave differently! Especially decaf vs. regular...I definitely have a harder time dialing in decaf beans, especially when they're a lighter roast.
Beans all taste differently! Having tried 5 kinds so far, Klatch Belle is my go-to. I'll branch out later, but enjoying those beans so much right now.
Espresso accessories will be the death of me.
Vario Grinder related:
The little rubber pieces really help for loose levers. Just call Baratza and ask them to send it to you. "Installation" is super easy, even for non-handy people.
A change of 2 settings on the micro lever can mean the difference between a messed up and a good shot. Dialing in the right grind takes time, but if you can keep all other variables (tamping method, temperature, bean weight, volume) pretty stable, adjusting grind is the easiest way to get to a decent shot.
The Vario is said to be great for low grind retention...I always have to tap mine on the side a few times to get some of it out (I pre-weigh 16 grams of beans, rather than fill the hopper).
Mini Vivaldi/DB related:
Although I learned that using an HX machine on a general basis is actually pretty easy, the idea of temperature-surfing just adds one more variable when things aren't going well. I fully appreciate PID as I can rest assured that temp will be just one more constant.
As I've gotten more efficient with using the machine and having pre-programmed a general volume, the DB and automatic (vs. semi) functionality has come into use. I do still watch extraction, but I find myself starting to froth milk during extraction more and more. Great for morning rush.
A huge drip tray is a great thing.
A good machine is worth the investment, not because it'll necessarily make better espresso, but because support is great. Chris Coffee helped when my vibe pump went out, and it was relatively cheap and easy to fix/replace. Based on the feel of the build of the machine, I have some confidence that it'll last a long time.
Finally, the coffee community is great. Helpful people that have true passion...always appreciated!
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 8,193 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 Tue Nov 19, 2013, 5:46pm Subject: Re: Some things I've learned so far...
Well, ...... :D I can't speak to the grinder but the rest is good! Except for HX and temp surfing, they don't go together, temp surfing is timing the heat cycle to brew temp on a SBDU, you are only flushing over temp water out of the brew system on a HX, the temp is stable after you start working,
I'm glad you are more comfortable now, and: yes it IS easier to be consistent on better machines :D
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!
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