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Discussions > Espresso > General > Need buying...  
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CoffeeRon
Senior Member
CoffeeRon
Joined: 26 Apr 2009
Posts: 733
Location: Tacoma Wa.
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Wega Lyra, Europiccola(still...
Grinder: Macap M7D, Pharos, Vario W,...
Vac Pot: Sunbeam CoffeeMaster
Drip: Melita BCM-4
Roaster: FR SR500,B-1600, SC/TO
Posted Thu Feb 20, 2014, 3:08pm
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

boar_d_laze Said:

If you're grinding for espresso only, I'm not sure that the "W" weighing feature of the Vario W is much of a convenience.  What you gain from grinding into a scale -- as opposed to the inconvenience of single dosing, or the minor inaccuracies of time dosing -- you lose in the inconvenience and degradation of texture (i.e., more lumps) of not grinding directly into a pf supported by the pf holder.

Posted February 20, 2014 link

Personally I'm loving the weight feature of my newly acquired Vario-W. Always figured the doser on my K-6 helped break up any clumps and with the W I am thinking shaking the bin a bit before pouring into the PF accomplishes the same. I can say I haven't had one spritzer since I got it. I would add though that I don't intend to sell my K-6 , as the Vario isn't "built like a tank".

As for the better grinders, it is my feeling that you'd have to get up in the $2000 range to up the quality in the cup. Not to say I'm right necessarily, maybe suggest one or two?

Personally I'm trying to get ahold of Orphan espresso to see when I might get my hands on a Pharos. I'd love to experience that difference in flavor for those times when I have the time (or patience?) for it.

BTW love your tamper Rich.
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coffee_brian
Senior Member


Joined: 18 Feb 2014
Posts: 10
Location: San Diego
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: BES920XL
Grinder: Vario, Rocky
Roaster: local
Posted Thu Feb 20, 2014, 10:18pm
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

boar_d_laze Said:

Surprisingly, you haven't asked about tampers.  There's a minimum level of quality for making life easy, and once you've achieved that you're just fooling around.  Nothing wrong with fooling around, though.  It's fun.

Rattleware is as little as you can spend and jump the quality hurdle.  Good weight, good fit in the hand, good fit in most baskets, comfort, quality build.  The one thing it lacks, is coolness.

VST (and La Marzocco Strada) baskets work best with tampers specifically sized for them.  If you use VST baskets -- and you probably should --  the universe of good tampers contracts significantly.  I like the tampers from Coffee Complements for their usability, price and coolness; and want to give them a shoutout because the owner and tamper maker, Hai Pham, recently did me a huge solid when USPS screwed up.

Right now though, I'm using a Butterfly Tamper from Clive because -- and never forget it -- Coolness = Mojo.

Rich

Posted February 20, 2014 link

Thank you for bringing that up, I do want to make sure I'm using high end baskets and a good tamper. So for the BDB, would I want Ridged or Ridgeless VST baskets? (vst-precision-filter-baskets)

And then to go with those I'll take you up on your advice and get a get a tamper from CC. I like the Solid Brass Handle one (solid-brass-handle-espresso-coffee-tamper), however I'm sure not what the Base Shape and Base Size should be, although I'm guessing the base size would be 58mm?

CoffeeRon Said:

As for the better grinders, it is my feeling that you'd have to get up in the $2000 range to up the quality in the cup. Not to say I'm right necessarily, maybe suggest one or two?

Posted February 20, 2014 link

Ya, I'm thinking it makes the best sense to just get the Vario for now and then maybe upgrade later.
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CoffeeLoversMag
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CoffeeLoversMag
Joined: 10 Jan 2013
Posts: 218
Location: Seattle
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Fri Feb 21, 2014, 12:21am
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

I think you have enough resources in acquiring a machine that perfectly match of what you want. Why not stick first on Breville products; anyway if you are not satisfied you can change to other brand. It seems you want satisfaction and I think you can afford to explore.

 
Did you know...? Dark roast coffees actually have less caffeine than lighter roasts due to the fact that the process of roasting burns off caffeine.
www.coffeeloversmag.com/theMagazine
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coffee_brian
Senior Member


Joined: 18 Feb 2014
Posts: 10
Location: San Diego
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: BES920XL
Grinder: Vario, Rocky
Roaster: local
Posted Fri Feb 21, 2014, 10:15am
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

CoffeeLoversMag Said:

I think you have enough resources in acquiring a machine that perfectly match of what you want. Why not stick first on Breville products; anyway if you are not satisfied you can change to other brand. It seems you want satisfaction and I think you can afford to explore.

Posted February 21, 2014 link

True, I could just work my way up to the finer accessories and enjoy the journey. I figured why not get a little head start since I know that I want to reach that awesome quality of espresso.
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coffee_brian
Senior Member


Joined: 18 Feb 2014
Posts: 10
Location: San Diego
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: BES920XL
Grinder: Vario, Rocky
Roaster: local
Posted Fri Feb 21, 2014, 1:34pm
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

From the research I've done so far it looks like most people prefer the Ridgeless baskets and the Convex (or curved) tampers best, although it probably won't make a significant difference.

So will any of the tampers from CoffeeCompliments fit the VST baskets nicely?
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,958
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Fri Feb 21, 2014, 2:05pm
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

VST baskets take a 58.35mm tamper.  It doesn't really matter where you get that from.

Ridged versus ridgeless is personal preference. I have both.  For me it doesn't matter because I don't have to take them out except to make a change or clean them, as I weigh my dose before it hits the burrs.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,958
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Fri Feb 21, 2014, 2:16pm
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

coffee_brian Said:

And then to go with those I'll take you up on your advice and get a get a tamper from CC. I like the Solid Brass Handle one (solid-brass-handle-espresso-coffee-tamper), however I'm sure not what the Base Shape and Base Size should be, although I'm guessing the base size would be 58mm?

Posted February 20, 2014 link

Before you buy that...I have one that I only used a couple of times. I got mine from an ebay seller in Florida, called Precision Coffee Tampers, but it looks exactly the same as the one in the link. I'd be happy to sell it to you for less than new price.  IIRC, I got a 58.35mm semi-flat base for mine...but I can double check that.  And if you're interested...before you agree to buy...let me tell you why I don't want it anymore...

I think the tamper looks really cool. When you pick it up and hold it, it has a really nice heavy, metal feeling and the grip is super comfortable in the hand.  However, in practice, I find it really difficult to tell if I'm pushing straight down.  The traditional style tampers allow you to extend your fingers over the base and feel the basket rim, so that you can make microadjustments and get the tamper level before you apply any real downward pressure.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,084
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Fri Feb 21, 2014, 3:05pm
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

CoffeeRon Said:

.As for the better grinders, it is my feeling that you'd have to get up in the $2000 range to up the quality in the cup. Not to say I'm right necessarily, maybe suggest one or two?

Posted February 20, 2014 link

IMO, the 63/64mm flats like the Ceado E7, Mazzer Mini A with SJ burrs, Mazzer SJ and Quamar M80 grind better.  There's some argument though from Vario/Forte fans as to whether the 63/64s are actually better in the cup, or merely better built.

(I haven't had any experience with the M80 but am told by people who should know that it grinds about as well as the other two; and have had plenty of experience with the others. )

There are many grinders, priced between $750 and $1500, which do represent a palpable step:  Compak K-8, Compak K-10 PB, Fiorenzato Doge, La Cimbali Jr. Max Hybrid (had one for years); Macap M7A, Mazzer Kony, Mazzer Major; and Quamar T48 to name eight.  Note that these are big deal burr sets, bodies and mechanicals, but aren't the pricier walk-up (electronic), doserless variants.  Note also, that I'm only talking about "in the cup" qualities, without regard to ergonomics, grinds retention, or ease of use.      

(I mention the Fiorenzato and Quamar on the basis of their reputations only.  I've had at least some experience with the others, including quite a bit with the K-10 and La Cimbali.)

At $1700 and above, you get into the uber, walk up Titans like the Ceado E92 (snagged one to replace the Cimbali); Compak K-10 Fresh, and Mazzer Robur E.  Compared to the Vario those inhabit a different universe of quality.  

Tampers
The Butterfly Tamper is very cool.  After posting a review at Clive, I got a better feeling for it, and contrary to what I wrote -- it does a favor consolidation over pressure.  But at the end of the day, it's just a tamper.  As long as it fits, is comfortable, and not too difficult to keep square, you can make just about anything work well.  

I've got two CC tampers, the "Tamper for Billiard Lovers" (the eight-ball) and the Brass Handle (which actually looks more like a door knob than its picture would have it).  The eight ball has a flat serrated base.  The Brass Handle has a C-flat serrated, is very heavy, and in a lot of senses is the easiest tamper to use of those I own.  Both of my CCs are the "special" 58.35mm size for VST/Strada baskets.

I've also got a couple of Concept Art tampers, including the Technic, which is their "dynometric" (aka "click") tamper, and a Rattleware.

VST recommends flat tampers for its baskets.  Heather Wilson, my barista "trainer," and the only World Barista Champion I know personally,  prefers C-flats for VSTs.  I think you might have some problems with a highly dished tamper, like a "Euro curve," but that otherwise it doesn't make much difference.  On the other hand a good fit does matter, and all of my oversize tampers tend to seal the edges better than my plain-jane 58s.  

If you haven't made a decision on whether or not you're going to switch to VSTs, get an inexpensive but good quality 58, like a Rattleware or one of the basic CCs.  

Rich
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coffee_brian
Senior Member


Joined: 18 Feb 2014
Posts: 10
Location: San Diego
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: BES920XL
Grinder: Vario, Rocky
Roaster: local
Posted Fri Feb 21, 2014, 4:02pm
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

emradguy Said:

Before you buy that...I have one that I only used a couple of times. I got mine from an ebay seller in Florida, called Precision Coffee Tampers, but it looks exactly the same as the one in the link. I'd be happy to sell it to you for less than new price.  IIRC, I got a 58.35mm semi-flat base for mine...but I can double check that.  And if you're interested...before you agree to buy...let me tell you why I don't want it anymore...

I think the tamper looks really cool. When you pick it up and hold it, it has a really nice heavy, metal feeling and the grip is super comfortable in the hand.  However, in practice, I find it really difficult to tell if I'm pushing straight down.  The traditional style tampers allow you to extend your fingers over the base and feel the basket rim, so that you can make microadjustments and get the tamper level before you apply any real downward pressure.

Posted February 21, 2014 link

Thanks for your honestly, I think for my first tamper I'll go with a traditional shape.

boar_d_laze Said:

If you haven't made a decision on whether or not you're going to switch to VSTs, get an inexpensive but good quality 58, like a Rattleware or one of the basic CCs.  

Posted February 21, 2014 link

I just ordered 15g and 20g ridgeless VST baskets, as well as that same brass handle tamper that you have from CC. I decided to go with the flat serrated base. Thanks for the suggestion.

Brian
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,084
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Fri Feb 21, 2014, 6:51pm
Subject: Re: Need buying advice
 

The ebay seller "Precision Coffee Tampers" and the online site "Coffee Complements," are the same.  The guy who machines the hoppers, runs the business, etc., etc. is Hai Pham.  

CC/PCT tamper bases do run thicker than some others.        

Tampers for VST/Strada baskets:
A good fit makes things easier.  VST published "58.35mm," and a few tamper manufacturers make tampers with that nominal base size.  However, other makers publish different nominal sizes which fit just as well.

Flat bottom tampers are far more common and recommended far more than curved, for VST/Strada baskets.  This reasoning is that because the hole pattern in the VST extends closer to the edge than the patterns of "standard" baskets, that it's important to get even tamp pressure from edge to edge.  In my experience, flat, C-flat, or slightly curved (i.e., "American curve") are equally good; but a deep, European curve is problematic.    

The theory behind serrated tampers is that they create greater surface area, and that greater surface area facilitates extraction.  In a word, "horse$#*t."  Serrated tampers do not make for better espresso than flat bottom tampers.  However, they make for an interesting looking puck surface and don't hurt anything.  

I'm not sure, but think that the underlying rationale included ergonomic considerations like keeping a straight wrist, avoiding too much pressure, etc., in order to protect professional baristas from repetitive stress injuries.  While it's a very different tamper while remaining a tamper.

If you really prefer using your finger tips on the tamper for leveling, and consolidation rather than using the handle, and are not married to a forceful press, the Butterfly facilitates that style like no others.  On the other hand, if you like using a handle, you're SOL; and if you like a 30# press -- you can do it if you have strong hands, but it's something of an unnatural act.  

FWIW, the Butterfly is nominally 58.2mm, and fits nice and snug in my Stradas about as well as my nominally 58.35mm CCs; and leaves less slop than my nominal 58s.  It has a slightly convexed bottom, with even less rocker than an American curve.  

It took me a little while to figure out the difference between consolidation and pressing, but it eventually penetrated and I dutifully consolidate and level my Butterfly pucks, then move on to polishing without much of a press.  The technique would work with just about any tamper, but it REALLY works for that tamper and vice versa.  

The Butterfly is currently my favorite tamper, a nice change of pace, and pretty easy to master for anyone who already has good technique.  But:
(a) I'm not sure I'd like it if I were using anything other than a very good grinder,
(b) I reserve the right to use whatever I choose according to whim; and
(c) Can't recommend it for anyone who doesn't already have good barista skills.    

My present "second-favorite" is the CC/PCT Brass Handle.  It's heavy, has a very thick base, and is much more a presser than a consolidator.  Go figure.

If you're going to walk away from this with anything, let it be that most of the tamping ritual is highly overrated as a barista skill, but the importance of leveling can't be overstated.

Rich
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