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Espresso: Espresso Mods and Restorations
About Contemplating modifying your machine? PID, Pressure Mods, etc. Please read
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Senior Member

Joined: 21 Jan 2010
Posts: 144
Location: San Francisco
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Baby Lusso Caravel Coffex...
Grinder: Pharos, Rio Super Jolly,...
Vac Pot: AeroPress
Drip: Melitta
Roaster: Heat Gun/Bread Machine,...
Posted Sat Dec 10, 2011, 9:07am
Subject: About Contemplating modifying your machine? PID, Pressure Mods, etc. Please read

Jim Schulman raises an important issue with that thread, that before a newbie modifies their already good equipment, they should probably achieve competent barista skills.

But I think the informational post emphasizes one side of a two-sided argument. There are some mods that may make one's setup so much easier to control they're worth doing early, essentially correcting a lack of control inherent in the equipment.

In an HB thread, Jim Schulman writes:

"The espresso world is grossly unfair -- the more expensive the gear, the easier it is to pull consistently good shots. If you are willing to spend $2500 or more on a machine and grinder, all your choices will run from very good to excellent; and your learning curve will be fast. If you are only willing to spend $1000 on the pair, all your choices will run from fair to good, and you will spend a lot longer becoming consistent.

I think some mods may also get you there, and the introduction of the Orphan Espresso Pharos grinder has lowered the price point for that essential piece of gear.

Here's an example of an early mod that worked for me.

My first really good espresso machine is an Isomac Amica (E61 single boiler) that got a great review here but also is known for defective thermostats. Even with the thermostats working well, a stock Amica requires temperature surfing. I bought it on eBay with some damaged wires because the seller had turned it on without water in the tank. So it needed minor repairs anyway. I had no restoration skills then. So I sent it to a professional to replace the thermofuse, fix the wires and install a PID. The PID has made temperature control so easy I've been able to concentrate on my other barista skills without fussing with figuring out a heating flush routine. With decent barista skills at this point, the Amica is still one of my favorite pieces of gear. And I'm still glad I don't have to heat flush, because when I'm dialing in a new coffee I can quickly arrive at a temperature "sweet spot" and focus more on dose and grind. (I also have an Olympia Express Coffex that requires heat flushing, which isn't hard to do.)

My argument for going ahead with some mods early on doesn't contradict Jim's point, though, that people may have pretty adequate equipment to start with and get so focused on trying to improve the equipment they neglect the basic skills that create a good extraction and delicious espresso.
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Senior Member

Joined: 26 Dec 2011
Posts: 237
Location: austin
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Silvia- No PID
Grinder: Compak k3 touch
Drip: french press
Posted Sun Jan 8, 2012, 9:47am
Subject: Re: Contemplating modifying your machine? PID, Pressure Mods, etc. Please read

Wow, now I'm confused. I was under the impression that if you master your skills as a barista, then a $500 single boiler unit can pull shots just as good as a $3,000.00 espresso machine with consistency. With the main difference of the $3,000 machine can produce large quantity/number of shots and quicker. Provided both have high quality grinders. That link above and the sticky kinda contradict each other....at least to me.
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Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 8,259
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 Jan 10, 2012, 6:06am
Subject: Re: Contemplating modifying your machine? PID, Pressure Mods, etc. Please read

EDIT, first draft of this post was on my cell phone, I have reworked it for better clarity.

Volume of drinks by no means is the main difference between starter machines and even prosumer machines, let alone professional and commercial machines.

It is true that you MAY on occasion be able to pull a GREAT  shot from a SBDU machine and with a skilled hand be able to make it pull good to very good shots consistently, but what you buy with the higher  priced machines is  longer life in the components, higher rate of consistency, significantly higher ease of use and better performance all around.

The price of a machine alone is not THE deciding factor on the result of the drink that is produced and skill of the operator weighs heavily in the final outcome but it is none the less true that a better quality machine makes it significantly easier to get consistently high quality drinks. A good grinder is MANDATORY with either class of machine.

To change the example to something most people can relate to I am going to use cars.

Do you remember the Yugo? It was a car built to a low price point. The car was able to drive at freeway speeds, and so can a Porsche. A professional driver can wring out the last ounce of performance from the Yugo but the same professional driver can achieve much more performance with much greater ease from the Porsche.  The Yugo is not the equal of the Porsche, no matter how many mods you add to it  The foundation, the framework, the basis of the machines were aimed at different requirements and the results in the final product reflect the design points.

The base SBDU is built to a price point, high skill is need to get the most from it and those skills will serve you well as you move into advanced SBDU machines and then into HX and DB machines. Not everyone wants more that the occasional espresso drink and that is what those machines were made for,  well that and to be given as wedding presents that sit in the back of the closet for a few years before they are sold at a yard sale.

While it is true that a well trained barista can ring out the best results possible from a low end SBDU, it is not true that it is the equal of a much higher priced machine of which, the goal of the designers was to produce a quality machine with better parts and the price point reflects this.

We all start someplace and regardless of where we start, we need a good grinder to get the best results. The better the grinder (to a point) the better results we can get from any given espresso machine. Thus you will often read here that we can get a better drink from a low end machine and a good grinder than we can get with a great espresso machine and a low end grinder. What we feed our machines makes a difference but that is not to say that price is not in the equation of quality of the espresso machine too.

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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