Posted Sun Mar 17, 2013, 10:21am Subject: ENTRY LEVEL ESPRESSO FOR $10
In the engineering profession there was an old story of the guy sent in "to drain the swamp" but ended up spending most of his time pulling alligators off his...(rear end). The story of my coffee experience in a nutshell is another example of blindly walking into a situation with the naive impression that this was not going to be a big deal.
(BUT FIRST LET ME MAKE THIS PERFECTLY CLEAR - I am a "consumer espresso drinker" and I don't want anyone to have the mistaken idea that I have any intension's to ever buy any kind of commercial/professional espresso equipment, as a retired engineer I do appreciate the construction, quality, and life span issues of high end models but this discussion is firmly rooted in the "well under $500 spent on espresso equipment" world). I am the only coffee drinker in this house and a few cups a day are all I need.
So I am thinking to myself, this used espresso machine at the thrift store is only $10 and if I can get it to work maybe I can just start to understand what all this java mystique is based on. The same thing happens over and over and I am into the thing totally un expecting the outcome. I go online and find a how to video of using a similar model. Along the way I run across one of the "rules" of espresso production, that being that you do NOT use a blade grinder for your beans. Well I am thinking I guess I should look into that since my blade grinder is not considered up to the job. For $50 to $100 I could upgrade my grinding to the "minimum" acceptable level. Now bear in mind that the next morning after the espresso machine purchase I did make several cups from an assortment of beans and grounds I had. I must confess at this point that I do like coffee. I have never been really picky about it and find that in any situation that offers coffee versus no coffee I will gladly accept the brew with out much debate. I have even reheated coffee and had a cup that I guess most others would throw out. When I hear that a pot of coffee was poured down the drain because it was over 30 minutes old I have a kind of an emotional response to the loss. I really like coffee, and with that said, I had now made several cups of espresso that I had to admit are clearly more satisfying than my normal drip brewer could make. I had discovered something that millions of others already knew, a better way to have coffee. Now I am reading advertising and reviews and learn that "real espresso makers" use a pump and that entry level models boil water to produce the pressure (which is known to produce "pathetic" results). So here I am with a water boiler type design and I am thinking that well it does work, just takes a while to heat up to operating pressure so why should I care? A little more time looking at espresso machine specifications raises a red flag as luck would have it. One model sports a stainless steel lined water heating chamber and I think to myself, why would you go to the trouble to line the heating chamber with stainless steel?, and if you didn't line the chamber with stainless steel, what would the heating chamber be made out of? I go over to my $10 machine, open up the top and look down inside an then it hits me, it is aluminum! Unlined, pure raw cast aluminum. It had been quite a number of years ago that we eliminated all cookware that exposed aluminum to our food due the long term health issues. I have just been making cup after cup of what I am really starting to enjoy and realize that each cup is dosing me with more aluminum then I have had in years. But it is too late now, I am going to drink espresso, so it's back on the Internet to find if there are any espresso machines with good reviews on sale. Since I was going to get a new machine, I would now have to justify upgrading my grinder so all in all my $10 investment has now cost me $200. I enjoy the new "pump type" espresso machine with the stainless steel lined heat chamber and the new burr style grinder. These are modern, good looking and "smart" devices that I expect to serve me well and make wonderful tasting drinks. What I can't understand is how remarkably easy it was for me to walk through this one way door. Once I had entered there was no going back. It is a technological ratchet that can only turn in one direction by advancing a click ahead with each effort put into it.
Posted Sun Mar 17, 2013, 7:41pm Subject: Re: ENTRY LEVEL ESPRESSO FOR $10
Darrell, welcome to CG! I'm in Brentwood, so we may be neighbors. Looks like you've joined the club. I enjoy your writing style, and even more your open-minded attitude towards our affliction, err addiction, err...HOBBY. :>D
Please tell us what you've purchased. Hopefully, our members will carefully read your treatise and understand you're a 1 step at a time, learn my gig guy.
Always remember, we're here to help. This is an awesome community, one of several on the 'net that welcome all, no matter your experience. As I've said numerous times, WE'VE ALL BEEN WHERE YOU ARE.
Posted Mon Mar 18, 2013, 5:27am Subject: Re: ENTRY LEVEL ESPRESSO FOR $10
Yup, like Rob says...we've all been there. I like your story/writing style too! If you consider hand grinders, you may be able to get some really good stuff without spending an arm and a leg. Hario makes two models, nearly identical in grind quality, for about $50. Since it's just you making a couple of shots a day, you may be one of those people who is more than happy grinding a crank each time. It takes a little less than 60 seconds to grind a double dose of espresso (about 14-18g). In fact, I use an OE Lido at work to make press pots and typically grind 22g of beans and get it into the pot in under a minute (literally...I walk across the hall put a pitcher with 300mL water in the microwave, hit the "add one minute" button, then walk back to my office and start grinding). You should definitely look for used gear, when you go to buy, since you have the skills and knowledge to fix it yourself. Of course you'll have to consider cost of parts into the equation.
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 6,839 Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A. Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: ECM Veneziano A1 Grinder: Many different commercial Vac Pot: 40s era Silex Drip: Milita, Bunn&Curtis... Roaster: Cast iron pan, gas burner
Posted Mon Mar 18, 2013, 5:59am Subject: Re: ENTRY LEVEL ESPRESSO FOR $10
LOL Been there!
OH so many years and dollars ago. Boiler style "machine" with a blade "grinder" LOL!!!
Indeed it is a one way ratchet. Once you see how much better the coffee is with one upgrade of your gear, then you start to wonder about the next thing to upgrade and it never ends, well, not at least until you get a good bit of money invested anyway. I have finally reached that level but I am several $K down the road.
So, tell us, what did you buy? My first "pump" machine was a Krupps that I bought used at a yard sale for $20 as the owner could not make it work, I did and have not looked back!
In real life, my name is Wayne P.
Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
Posted Tue Mar 19, 2013, 4:23pm Subject: Re: ENTRY LEVEL ESPRESSO FOR $10
Thanks so much for the generous welcome to CG, I detect that what maybe a dry sense of humor on my part is at least mildly appreciated but that is just the way I like to carry my writings forward. I have had to do way too much technical writing in my time and it all had to be very serious so when I write for fun now I guess it is just my way of trying to get things evened out. Working around my company's multi-billion dollar water boilers and steamers was a good primer for me to get interested in a better way to consume coffee. I witnessed literally rivers of coffee consumed on the job and always was in awe of the area around the office coffee pot. There was a mild socializing among the staff there that was special. It was the best place to find out what was going on and the casual way of updates, assignment status, and such was way more efficient than any "meeting". But I digress, what is going on with CG is taking all this to a new level and sure I'll tell you what I have "upgraded" to but in all honesty this is financially on the bottom end of any setup that includes a minimum of burr grinding and pump processing. All that being said I am so delighted with the results that I can't even remotely imagine ever going back to any more primitive technology. The thought now of getting a hold of some decent beans really intrigues me. The possibility of eventually trying some production from the kind of equipment that you guys own is something that a month ago would have meant nothing to me at all. Like I said before, I've come through that door and now there is no going back. I do have my doubts about the feasibility of any kind of repair to this kind of equipment meaning that as with a lot of consumer level stuff the parts are some times as expensive as the entire device and we all know that means that most of the time that if it quits after warranty it just gets tossed (unless you are like me and enjoy an excuse to tinker with electrical and mechanical stuff). But hey, that is the great benefit I guess of mass production. Anyway I have a Capresso EC50 Model#117 and a Kenmore 102.80011 grinder. There is no doubt in my mind that if I ever do run across a broken down piece of pro equipment looking for a home for a bargain price it will definitely get my attention. I bet I probably could pry open the door to my old machine and weld shop and fab some parts if need be. Heck, someone post a flow diagram, parts list, and wiring diagram and maybe I'll just build one from scratch...or not.
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