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I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > I prefer my 15$...  
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130psi
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130psi
Joined: 8 Apr 2011
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Location: CA
Expertise: I like coffee

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Posted Thu Sep 27, 2012, 4:25pm
Subject: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

I've spent over a year developing my technique with decent equipment (at left). I am an experienced experimental scientist and I believe that I've varied every variable discussed in these forums: bean freshness and roast, grind size (extraction times ranging from 15-30 seconds), amount of beans, temperature surfing, tamping pressure, I even tried a range of water pressure by adjusting the OPV. Result: The crema looks good, sometimes with a nice tiger striping. It doesn't matter. It tastes OK, but a bit harsh, slightly burned, to me. When I casually make a moka pot I smell lovely perfume and it tastes great. I, in general, am a fairly sensitive taster. Is espresso just not my cup of Joe or is there something that I've failed to try? BTW, I ask b/c I feel guilty spending this much money only to discover this result.

 
-Brett

Making espresso is not rocket science. Rockets fail less often.
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frcn
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frcn
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Posted Thu Sep 27, 2012, 4:56pm
Subject: Re: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

So many factors, so many variables, and little at your disposal to control them with the espresso machine you have.
Try the espresso as an Americano by adding some hot water to the espresso and see if the taste approaches that which you achieve from the moka pot. A more coarse grind with a larger dose of coffee brewed at a slightly lower temperature should give an espresso which is less harsh.

The temperature control is the most difficult to achieve with an unmodified single boiler machine. With a taste difference in the espresso able to be sensed with a one degree change by many drinkers, and two degrees easily sensed by most, small changes in this area make a difference. Since surfing is all you can do, it makes control difficult.

The best way to deal with this, taking into consideration your scientific approach and experience, is to get another barista to come over and play with your setup. maybe even bring a different grinder and some other beans. A BBQ or beer (or both) usually is sufficient motivation, and some single malt assures a response!    ;-)

 
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IMAWriter
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IMAWriter
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Posted Thu Sep 27, 2012, 5:28pm
Subject: Re: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

frcn Said:

The best way to deal with this, taking into consideration your scientific approach and experience, is to get another barista to come over and play with your setup. maybe even bring a different grinder and some other beans. A BBQ or beer (or both) usually is sufficient motivation, and some single malt assures a response!    ;-)

Posted September 27, 2012 link

Hmmm single malt. Be there in a few!
Randy's advice is spot on. Even experienced home barista's have a bit of trouble getting consistent shots on a machine such as yours, though you SHOULD be able to get some very good shots.
Just curious, what espresso beans/blends are you using?
Are they freshly roasted? Is there a date on the bag?

It DOES start with the coffee.
Perhaps you just haven't found the coffee that rocks your world. (for your machine.)

 
Rob J (LMWDP #187)
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wcmocha
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wcmocha
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Posted Sun Sep 30, 2012, 10:46am
Subject: Re: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

I've been in a similar place lately too.  To say I've heavily modded my machine would be an understatement and I have countless hours and money invested.  I wouldn't say I prefer the taste of other methods since I've pulled some amazing shots I would always take over other options.  However it's been a while since I've pulled a shot on my machine.  I've been using an aeropress and just steaming milk on my machine.

I've found that If I don't pull at least a shot every day or two, it takes a few to dial it in.  I'm just tired of wasting coffee getting it dialed in for just one shot.  I roast really good coffee in small batches and I've never wasted any in my aeropress, so I've tended to go back to it unless I'm entertaining or really drinking coffee regularly.

As for wasting money.  The shot's I've pulled at times have been worth every penny just to have had the experience.  It's like single malts too.  I have a decent selection of those too and have spent in the hundreds for a single bottle, but it's also worth it for the experience.
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D4F
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Posted Sun Sep 30, 2012, 12:55pm
Subject: Re: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

130psi Said:

Is espresso just not my cup of Joe or is there something that I've failed to try? BTW, I ask b/c I feel guilty spending this much money only to discover this result.

Posted September 27, 2012 link

"Failed to try" could be temperature control.  A PID makes this simple, though good temperature surfing and temperature measurement can also achieve it.  You mentioned surfing, but did you get desired temperature/control, or just try different methods?  A PID for brew temperature does not have to add much expense if DIY.  As noted, 1 - 2 degrees can be significant.

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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JasonBrandtLewis
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JasonBrandtLewis
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Posted Sun Sep 30, 2012, 5:20pm
Subject: Re: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

130psi Said:

I've spent over a year developing my technique with decent equipment (at left). I am an experienced experimental scientist and I believe that I've varied every variable discussed in these forums . . .

Posted September 27, 2012 link

"Varying the variables" doesn't automatically lead to success.  Care to be specific?  Where did you get your beans? What beans are you using?  What does are you using? etc., etc., etc. -- be specific.

By the way:  a) $400 isn't very much to spend on an espresso machine; b) the Gaggia Classic is the LEAST expensive machine that I would feel comfortable in recommending -- in other words, it's acceptable, but barely.

Since you and I have not shared an espresso, I have no idea what the fault may be.  But have you gone to a truly excellent café and tasted their espresso?  I'm not talking Starbucks, or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, or even Peet's . . . I'm not sure where to suggest you even go in Sac -- I know Temple Coffee is supposed to be good, but I was underwhelmed when I went there.  But my point is that if you go to a "serious" café (or two or three) and don't like any of the cups of espresso you taste, well -- then you can stick with your moka pot guilt- and worry-free.

Cheers,
Jason

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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dyqik
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Posted Mon Oct 1, 2012, 7:01am
Subject: Re: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

The PID was an important step with my Gaggia - 2 to 3F is enough to change the taste of the espresso noticeably, and temp surfing just wasn't doing it for me.  The other issue is distribution (not so much tamping) - do you have a naked PF, and/or do you get consistent extraction times if you don't play with the other variables?  I see a lot of channelling if I don't use WDT, and that has a big effect on both the extraction time for a set volume, and on the taste (channelling gives a fast shot and over extracted bitterness).  It's also possible that your Gaggia is running hot all the time, and you might try a little cooling flush before brewing to get the temperature down.

Try updosing the Gaggia as well, it seems to like 16-18g for a 2oz double, particularly now I've got the brew pressure down to 10 bar static (i.e. with blind pressure gauge).
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130psi
Senior Member
130psi
Joined: 8 Apr 2011
Posts: 29
Location: CA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic
Grinder: Brazata Virtuoso Preciso;...
Vac Pot: AeroPress
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Mon Oct 1, 2012, 11:53am
Subject: Re: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

Thanks for all of the feedback, everyone. Based on FB, I am now trying shorter pulls, 21g, lower temp.

Answers to Qs:

Beans, source: I've used the best sources available in Sacramento, Peets and Temple. Yesterday, I was in SF and scored Blue Bottle, Hayes Valley Espresso. Will report back later on that after I've tried it several times. I prefer medium over dark roasts, so Peets has not been a good source for me.

Roast: Anything that says Espresso; anything that is medium roast. Med roast generally works better for me. Favorites to date: Peets Burundi, Temple Espresso blend (can't remember the name). I seem to like S. American coffees.

Dose: 14-18 g. Am now trying 21 g, per replies above. Will also try blindly reducing temp a bit. If something good happens with temp I will get the PID.  I have often used the

WDT: yes.

Date: when serious, 2-9 days since roast. Stored in carafe.

Naked PF: Yes, sometimes it is beautiful (viscous cone, no channeling); sometimes it spurts (e.g., triple shot)

OPV: I did, long ago, bring the pressure down to ~ 9 bar from the factory setting (closer to 11 bar).

 
-Brett

Making espresso is not rocket science. Rockets fail less often.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,391
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Mon Oct 1, 2012, 11:59am
Subject: Re: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

130psi Said:

I've used the best sources available in Sacramento, Peets and Temple.

Posted October 1, 2012 link

OK, so -- at least from Peet's -- you have no idea when it was roasted.

130psi Said:

Yesterday, I was in SF and scored Blue Bottle, Hayes Valley Espresso. Will report back later on that after I've tried it several times.

Posted October 1, 2012 link

What is the roasting date on the bag (if any), and how are you storing your beans?

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
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Posted Mon Oct 1, 2012, 12:06pm
Subject: Re: I prefer my 15$ moka pot to my 400$ espresso machine (?)
 

Your beans may very well be the problem.  Why don't you take a look at this list of favorites from over on Home Barista...

Click Here (www.home-barista.com)

I used to use Peet's.  I'd say all of the coffees I've tried off of this list have been FAR superior...and though I've only tried a handful of them, my favorites so far are Red Bird Espresso and Klatch WBC.  In the beans forums here, there are myriad posts about flavor profiles.

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