Hello everyone. I found this amazing forum by following various reviews and discussions of La Valentina espresso machines. Since this is my first post, allow me to introduce myself.
I used to be a barista in the 1980s. To the best of my recollection, I learned on some sort of old, dual piston-lever Gaggia. I was 16 years old, and was hooked. The last machine I used daily was a state-of-the-art La Marzocco, circa 1990.
I've been out of the game since then, but now I have the means to start playing with making espresso at home. I understand a lot has changed over the years. And I've probably forgotten even more.
I poked around coffeegeek.com for a while and eventually made the impossible decision that everyone must go through... and put in an order with the folks at 1st-Line.
A few days later, a shiny new Brass and Chrome Elektra Micro Casa a Leva and a Mazzer Mini arrived on my doorstep. When I opened the Elektra up, I'm not sure what happened, but I was filled with self-doubt and returned it unused back to 1st-Line. It's a lovely machine, but I realized I didn't want retro just for the sake of style
. And I was afraid I'd hurt the thing too. Cool bird, though.
Back to square one minus restocking fee. I then agonized between the Olympia Cremina and the La Valentina Levetta. Yeah, I know. Apples and oranges. Afraid that I'd be making a big mistake not going with a E61 group and all the other commercial bells and whistles a modern machine can offer... I went with the La Valentina. It didn't hurt that it was less expensive too.
I started trying out the equipment yesterday afternoon, with both the Mazzer and the Levetta at their default, as shipped, settings. Just for the sake of having something to play with right away, I brought home some beans from Peet's Coffee (less than a mile away). The grounds came out a bit fine to my eyes, but hey, what do I know?
I'm currently using the included plastic tamp which I know I need to replace ASAP. After full warm-up and flushing, the Levetta manometer gets up to 1.1 - 1.2 BAR, though it dips down below 1 BAR in the red zone (is that a good thing?) during pulls. Maybe this is too hot or maybe this is ideal? I'm not sure.
So far, after about a dozen attempts, I've had only one, barely drinkable shot... and truth be told, it was over-extracted and grainy as hell. I'm not sure if it's the beans, how they're ground, portioned, tamped, etc... or just me. I don't have diagnostic gauges and thermometers (I'm not that
much of a geek
), and I really don't want to start blaming the equipment because I know I'm very lucky to have this stuff in my home in the first place.
Since some of you guys have the exact same equipment, where should I start - use and settings-wise? I'm totally willing to try different beans and grind settings, but I'm of the opinion that it should be possible to yield a good cup of espresso without constant tweaking or the need to mail-order Black Cat, etc.
But again, what do I know?