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Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
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Arkaon
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Oct 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Illinois
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Oct 3, 2012, 12:09pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

All,

Ok. I will share my thoughts and story.

1st - I did buy the Dehlongi and so far am indifferent about it. (This means that I am neither disappointed, nor am I thrilled about it)

2nd - I will have to say that my first impressions of this forums was mildly negative. I was coming here hoping people would point me in a direction that was easier to understand for someone who knows absolutely nothing about Coffee. Instead what I got was what felt like a bunch of Elitists telling me things that sounded crazy. Even most of you admit that point by saying things like, "...I did not believe it at first either" and "....I thought the grinder emphasis was annoying at first". So I am sure you can see why I felt like this forum was fairly useless to begin with.

Now, On to what I ended up doing.

I went and purchased the Dehlongi from someone via Craigslist who was selling it as "Never Used", but had been unpacked and put on a counter. I wasn't able to do a very good inspection of this statement and honestly didn't even know what to look for. When I got it back to my house, I immediately set to cleaning it just to be sure. Of course, that's when I noticed all of the grounds stuck up inside the machine where the "handle?" (Terminology noob here) connects to the machine.

So, clearly the machine was used. Well, that in of it self isn't a big issue, so no love lost there.

As for the Grinder...Despite feeling like I was just getting the ramblings of the Coffee Elite telling me to buy a grinder that I felt was ridiculously over priced, I feel I made a safe compromise. Instead I went and purchased a bag of Espresso beans from a local coffee shop and asked them to blend it for Espresso shots. Hopefully that provided me with a better result than buying the cheap grinder I was initially drawn too. The machine they used was a large industrial Grinder and the shop was 3030 in Peoria IL and the coffee I purchased from them was the Goldilocks Espresso.

So, After all of that I stopped at the grocers and purchased some whole milk and went home to test out the machine.

Dehlongi's operating instructions suck. :) They use a system of picture blocks that were a little confusing, but I eventually managed it.

I started by turning the system on and pulled a cup of water and ran the steamer for a bit.

Next, I pulled my first cup. As I am still learning, I am certain I pressed it to hard, because it came out jet black (it's supposed to be a caramel color right?) and was extremely bitter.

Then I tried my had an frothing the milk. Boy that was a disaster, as I didn't have it on Steam, I had it set to pump out hot water, only I didn't know that.

So, my first cup was destroyed and I was pretty disheartened, but I remember hearing over and over that it takes a lot of work, and that the first few cups will prolly suck. So, I did it again.

This time I didn't tamp it down so hard and I got a better look, but I was still using the hot water setting on the unit and not the steam setting. So I had watered down hot milk and Espresso (Still to black I think).

This went on for about 2 more cups until I finally realized that you had to have the coffee dispense option off for it to be just steam. I was attempting to save time by having the machine pull the espresso while I steamed the milk. Apparently this unit can't do that. :)

Finally, On the 5th cup I pulled what I thought was a decent color (still a little black though, not sure what I am doing wrong. It doesn't look caramel colored.) and was able to froth milk a little better. Though, I still don't understand how I am supposed to get the milk to not be massive amounts of foam.

So, that was my adventure last night. Any tips or insight would be greatly appreciated, as I know have a much greater respect for what you guys were trying to say. Seriously, it takes a certain amount of getting ones ass kicked by a coffee machine in order to understand that it is significantly harder than you might think.

Thanks,
Ark
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D4F
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 1,897
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Preciso
Posted Wed Oct 3, 2012, 12:42pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

Happy to see that we did not run you off.

I used a Delonghi 701 for several years before I even read coffee forums.  Ignorance was bliss.  I got the machine as a gift and was happy enough.  I drank mostly Americano and did not care about or figure out the steam.  I could brew better that *$'s even using their beans, at least to my taste.  I saved money and had espresso at home.  The pressurized portafilter, basket and handle, will foam the espresso and give a kind of crema.  Until you get a good grinder you will probably want to keep the pressurized PF.  I put one of the Delonghi links on the last post and it will give you some ideas.

There are some grinders around $100 that can be modified to give espresso grinds.  The problem is fine adjustment, and that is why the Baratza is recommended at the least expensive end of espresso grinders.  Now that you are started, you have plenty of time to read.

With the Delonghi and pressurized PF, I had a shop grind the beans.  You will get stale coffee, it should be used within 15 minutes of grind.  The pressurized PF will help hide that, but you should be easily to tell some difference in a week old end of bag and fresh grind.  Start reading reviews of grinders and some mod on the lower priced ones and you will be able to find something that you can use.

You may want to look for local roasters and avoid the chains that have dark roasts and shiney beans.

You can gain a lot of knowledge reading FRCN's page.  

http://www.espressomyespresso.com/

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,499
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 Wed Oct 3, 2012, 1:09pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

Steve,
Well, your story isn't a whole lot different than a lot of members here! Sorry about your troubles, I know how frustrating it can be.

There are two reasons you need your own grinder. If you have a pressurized porta filter on that machine, like I said above, you can get by with a less expensive grinder but you do need a grinder.

First reason, even with fresh (less than two week old from roast) whole bean coffee, once it is ground, the clock is ticking and after about 15 minutes you will begin to taste the coffee going stale. OK there was another comment from a snobby coffee geek huh? Well not really. If you cut open an apple, the fruit is nice and white isn't it? After about 15 minutes, what happens? The flesh starts to turn brown doesn't it? This is oxidation forming on the surface of the fruit and it does not taste near as good as the fresh fruit dose it? The same thing happens to coffee when it is ground but because it is brown to start with, you do not see the oxidation. It happens at the same rate as the apple but because the pieces are so much smaller, the oxidation covers much more surface area and thus you have MORE oxidation per volume of coffee than you have on the surface of the apple. Think cutting the apple into 100 pieces, not just in half to start to understand what I am saying.

Next and more important than the above (but that is a pretty serious thing by it's self) when you do not have a pressurized porta filter, the grind of the coffee determines the flow of water through the coffee bed. This is a rather finickey adjustment and one that changes from day to day and sometimes hour to hour as the coffee ages, the conditions of the day changes etc. There is no way to have someone else grind the coffee for you and have any real hope of it being correctly ground FOR YOUR MACHINE Even if they use the most expensive grinder in the world, the grinder adjustment is that fussy. Which is why an inexpensive grinder is just not able to do the job. Even if it can grind consistently, you need fine adjustment steps or better yet, no steps at all.

If your porta filter is of the type that is pressurized, it has a valve that lets pressure build up inside the porta filter regardless of the grind, then it sprays the coffee out of the porta filter through a small hole. This allows you to use poor quality and poorly ground coffee and still get some kind of result. Tamping is the least important part of the whole process and if you have a pressurized porta filter, it really does not do much at all.

The instructions that come with most of these machines are not ....... well written so I am not supprised by the picture instructions. Basically you have 3 switches on most of these machines.
A power on/off switch
A brew espresso switch and
A steam switch.

The power switch is pretty straight forward.
The brew switch turns the pump on to cause pressure in the brew system provided the valve to the steam wand is closed.
The steam switch turns the heater on to a higher temp to cause the water to boil for steaming.

Brewing espresso takes place at 195 to 205F. This is too low to get any steam as water does not boil until at least 212F at sea level.
Steaming temp in most of these machines is about 265 + - which is much higher than boiling to provide pressure in the steam wand.

Regardless of how many BAR the pump can make at peak pressure, espresso is brewed at about 9 bar and in most machines, the pressure is limited by a valve that shunts excess pressure/water back to the water tank. This valve sets the max pressure in the brew system but if you are using a non pressurized porta filter, the pressure can be much less if the grind is not fine enough.

Espresso machines need about half an hour to come up to temp. Yes I know the light goes out at about 6 to 8 minutes but the rest of the machine is still too cold to brew properly and you will get nasty flavor from the coffee (sound familiar?)  It really takes about half an hour to get all the metal parts inside the machine up to operating temp, more with higher end machines as they have much more metal inside.

So, in a nut shell to brew espresso one a single boiler dual use machine (like you have) (this is not getting into temp surfing which is a whole 'nuther subject)

Turn the machine on to warm up. While warming, make sure the boiler is full by opening the steam wand and turn the brew switch on until water flows from the steam wand, catch the water in a cup or you will have a mess. Turn the pump off then close the steam wand valve.

When the machine is hot, grind 7 to 9 g of coffee for a single and 14 to 18 g for a double shot.

dose the coffee into the porta filter. If pressurized, make the coffee bed even and give a light tamp to even the consistency of the bed of coffee.

in a non pressurized porta filter, with the correct dose of coffee evenly distrubited in the basket, tamp to somewhere around 30 pounds, the exact number is not important but be consistent (there is that word again)

With the steam wand valve closed, load the porta filter into the machine and press the brew switch. When the coffee starts to flow, start a timer or look at a second hand on a watch and start timing. Regardless of a single or double shot, it should take about 25 seconds. A single shot is 1 fl oz and double shot is 2 fl oz.

When you get 25 seconds or two oz for a double stop the brewing. If the coffee blonds (gets a light spot) your coffee has been over extracted and you are into the nasty taste profile of the coffee and stop the brewing regardless of time or volume.

When you have your coffee brewed, turn the steam switch on and let the machine come up to it's new temp, brew switch in the off position.

When the boiler is up to temp, open the steam wand and bleed a little into a cup to warm the wand and to remove the liquid from the system, you should have clear steam, not hot water spitting in the steam flow.

Turn the steam valve off, and place the wand into your pitcher of milk and turn the valve back on. With your machine you probably have a froth aider of some sort. Keep the tip in the milk and keep the hole in the side of the wand just out of the milk. Let the milk froth until you get about 100 F or when the pitcher is too hot to hold comfortably (Stainless steel pitcher) then lower the wand into the milk and try to get a whirlpool going to blend the froth into the hot milk. Heat to about 140 to 150 F.

Turn the steam valve off then lower your pitcher, blow a blast of steam into your catch cup to clear any milk from inside the wand. Then turn the steam switch off and the brew switch on until you get water flowing from the steam wand. Turn the valve off then turn the pump off.

Make your drink and start your next one if you are going to make another drink otherwise, clean the machine up and enjoy your drink


I know these are fairly generic instructions but nearly all these machines work the same way.

VERY common mistakes people make when starting are :

Coffee that is older than two weeks from the day it was roasted.
Coffee that was ground at the store
Coffee ground in a grinder that is not able to do the job
Espresso machine too cold

Nearly everyone here has made at least one if not all the mistakes so you are not alone if any of the above apply to what happened.

The top two reasons that you have no crema or poor tasting coffee is old coffee and poor grinding or ground in the store.

Almost to a person, people having trouble brewing espresso is one or both of those things, it is so common in fact that if someone asks for help, the first two questions are about age of the coffee and the grinder, yep, it is that common.

Hang in there, we can help you get to better than a coffee shop in not much time at all. It can be frustrating but most of us have been there and done that!

 
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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Arkaon
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Oct 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Illinois
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Oct 3, 2012, 1:24pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

Calblacksmith,

That was probably one of the best replies I have ever read on a forum. Thank you. You answer all of my questions and even gave me some insights in a way that make sense to someone who is completely out of his element.

I would like to quote some Albert Einstein, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it enough." You sir, are the Einstein of the Espresso realm and I greatly appreciate you taking my cries for help seriously. I do want to get better, and because I really don't know what I am doing, it's very hard to understand where to go from nowhere. :)

Thank you again. I am going to go reread your reply and start looking for Grinders.

Because I have no idea if my unit has a pressurized portafilter or not, could someone help me? I know it has two attachments that came with the wand. One for those premade shots and one regular one.


Also, thought I should specifically point out your explanation of why I need a grinder. That example/explanations should be sticky'd somewhere. It made so much sense that it has convinced me I need to just start saving and get a better Grinder.

Thanks,
Steve
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 2,973
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Wed Oct 3, 2012, 1:45pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

I am sorry you felt we were giving you snobby info.  I personally don't consider the answers you got elitist just a reality check, but I am sure they were not what you wanted to hear.  I would love to tell you and everyone that you can get great espresso for $19.99 and whirlly blade chopper attachment for $5 more.  But that is not the case.  Us telling you that would have led to more frustration.  Before I got my first real machine I was upset I got a $20 espresso machine and bought a $12 tamper to find out later it would not make espresso no matter what.  I now use that tamper to mash garlic.  I was upset I spent good money after bad, i.e. the money for the tamper.  I wish I had found this site before I wasted my money even though to most people that would be a trivial amount, I hate wasting money.

I did not want spend money on a grinder, I am a tight wad by nature as well as paycheck. Since at the time, I did not know for sure if I would keep making espresso after I started, I probably would have bought a used machine to start with anyway.  The fact I was so poor just made me think about it a longer time.  Believe me, my butt has been kicked around the block for the 10 months I have been learning to make espresso.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 2,973
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Wed Oct 3, 2012, 1:52pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

I wish a few topics would get stickied at the top.  Just in the last month we must have 6-8 topics just like this one.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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Joel_B
Senior Member
Joel_B
Joined: 9 Oct 2007
Posts: 1,823
Location: Pacific NW
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Astra Mega II
Grinder: Mazzer SJ, Virtuoso
Vac Pot: Yama 5 cup
Drip: nope, french press
Roaster: Behmor, WP, BBQ drum
Posted Wed Oct 3, 2012, 2:23pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

Arkaon, sorry I didn't get to say this sooner, but welcome aboard :-)

There's probably not I can offer that's going to help too much at this point in the thread, BUT:

Arkaon Said:

Also, thought I should specifically point out your explanation of why I need a grinder. That example/explanations should be sticky'd somewhere. It made so much sense that it has convinced me I need to just start saving and get a better Grinder.

Posted October 3, 2012 link

good choice!  Like Wayne mentioned, we've all experienced something similar to what you did, and as we progressed, the grinder is what's not to skimp on.  I don't think the general sentiment here is to be elitist or snobbish regarding the grinder, but I can certainly see how it can come off that way.  Thanks for being honest, and will give us some food for thought on how to better present it in the future to come off on how we intend.


Arkaon Said:

Calblacksmith,

That was probably one of the best replies I have ever read on a forum. Thank you. You answer all of my questions and even gave me some insights in a way that make sense to someone who is completely out of his element.

I would like to quote some Albert Einstein, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it enough." You sir, are the Einstein of the Espresso realm and I greatly appreciate you taking my cries for help seriously. I do want to get better, and because I really don't know what I am doing, it's very hard to understand where to go from nowhere. :)

Posted October 3, 2012 link

This forum is definitely lucky to have Wayne such an active member.  He's debatablely this forum's MVP and nice to boot ;-)



Coffeenoobie Said:

I wish a few topics would get stickied at the top.  Just in the last month we must have 6-8 topics just like this one.

Posted October 3, 2012 link

You've mentioned this before and I still agree.  It would be great to have some readily available links to point people to if nothing else.
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,753
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, 2 Macap M4s, OE...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Wed Oct 3, 2012, 2:26pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

Steve, You're on your way!  As Wayne (calblacksmith) said, we've all been right where you are in this process...and want to help you.  The reason we come to this forum all the time is because we LIVE coffee and want to talk about it.  It helps us learn more too, and get better.  I've been doing home espresso close to 10 years and still feel very amateur - even though I know I make better drinks than almost every retail establishment I visit.

There's not much else to add to what Wayne said -  his post, as you pointed out, was awesome!

One fo the things that helped me most with my technique (and I still use it occasionally to calibrate myself) is "...easy guide to better espresso..." on www.espressomyespresso.com  It's article 12 about midway down the right hand column, under "How To".  The author, Randy Glass (frcn), is a frequent poster on this site, as well, and that entire site is his own work.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,499
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 Wed Oct 3, 2012, 2:56pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

I wish to thank all of you for the kind words , I'm truly humbled .
there are many members here that know much more than I do, I just have the gift of gab

I am just glad to help any way I can

 
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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DaveS
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Jan 2005
Posts: 193
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Silvia
Grinder: Rocky
Roaster: I-Roast
Posted Wed Oct 3, 2012, 2:57pm
Subject: Re: Just starting. Buying my first Machine - Need some advice.
 

There's some great advice here - my only addition would be to make friends with the folks at that coffee shop - if half of what they say on their website is true, they are trying to do a lot of things right.  They can be a source of great ideas as well as this forum and can hopefully be a good source of fresh beans,  though once you are hooked you'll be wondering about roasting your own as well!
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