1) Begin by filling the Boiler with fresh filtered and softened water. I use a LaPavoni water commercial water softener and a carbon block filter.
2) Turn machine on to warm up. I leave the steam wand open to release false pressure and to let me know the machine is almost warmed up by the noise of the steam as the signal. After you hear the steam, just turn the steam knob off and wait for the light to go out.
***WARNING: if you do this do not forget about it and stay in earshot. You could potentially damage your machine by boiling all of the water out and overheating it.***
3) Preheat the group, portafilter, cups
4) Dry off the group screen and portafilter basket
5) Grind the coffee. I find that when the coffee is fresh it works best to grind a little on the coarse side and tamp a little harder 40# + or -. As the coffee beans get older I find that a finer grind and slightly lighter tamp works best. You will have to pull the lever progressively harder as you grind the beans finer to get a good shot.
6) Dose into the portafilter until heaping with quick flicks of the dosing lever while rotating the portafilter and tapping it on the griders fork continuously. I have found a tremendouse improvement in shot quality and consistency between shots by improving my technique here. Getting this down has been one of the most important things that I have learned in perfecting my shot quality. This has virtually eliminated channeling.
7) Level the coffee in the portafilter. I have experimented with several styles of leveling and found that using your finger to level back, front, left, right, and then clean and level off excess grounds flat with the basket brim works best.
Tamp: I use a 40# tamp and quick polish with fresh beans. I get less channeling if I do not tap the side to get the grounds off of the side of the portafilter basket. I use a 49mm RegBarber convex tamper.
9) Loosely place the portafilter into the group so that there is no seal. Lift handle slowly to a point just before water begins to enter the piston (see picture below for approx hight). Leaving the portafilter loose eliminates the chance that the vacuum generated by lifting the handle with break the seal between the coffee puck and the basket--or just break the coffee puck.
Approximate hight to lift lever before water starts coming out.
Lock the portafilter snugly in place and then lift the lever the rest of the way slowly allowing the water to fill the piston.
10) Pre-infusion. Begin counting to 10 seconds as soon as water begins filling the piston. I usually time it so that it takes 10 seconds to lift the lever all the way up to fill the pistion to reduce the damage to the surface of the coffee puck from the force of the water filling the chamber.
11) Pull Shot:
Single: Pull just hard enough for the coffee to flow out in two nice mouse tails. If the shot pulls too fast or too slow adjust the coarseness of your grind. It should take about 25 - 30 seconds not including the pre-infusion. You should not be straining to pull the shot. You are done: enjoy
Using a smooth continuouse motion and pressure pull the lever about 3/4 the way down for two 3/4 oz ristretto shots and or all the way for two espresso shots. As you hit the bottom of the first pull, quickly snap the lever back the other way in a fluid non-jerking motion taking just a couple of seconds to get back to the top of the pull to begin the second pull let the piston fill with water and complete the second pull with smooth continuouse pressure just hard enough for the coffee to flow out in two nice mouse tails. If the shot pulls too fast or too slow adjust the coarseness of your grind. It should take about 25 - 30 seconds not including the pre-infusion. You should not be straining to pull the shot (with fresh beans). If during your final pull you get blonding just stop and pull the shot glasses away.
Beginning of shot forming mouse tails
15 seconds after end of shot. The camera shut off and I had to turn it back on to get the picture after most of the crema settled out.
Shot after 30 seconds.
Shot after sitting for over 60 seconds
Sorry these are not pretty shots. I was really struggling to pull the shot with one hand and take a picture with the other. It is much worse than chewing bubble gum and walking at the same time. Basically, I was having a bad shot day--both for the espresso shots and photo shots. You can hardly see the Guiness effect settling out in the pictures. I really give people credit that can pull a great shot while taking a photograph at the same time. I will get some more practice and submit better pictures later
If there is anything that I did not cover or you would like more information on please let me know.