The profiles of the three E61s shown in the chart in How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love HXs are compelling evidence for the argument that temperature stability is not a distinguishing characteristic among prosumer E61 espresso machines. In terms of espresso performance, the similarities didn't stop there. After some minor adjustments and using the same portafilter baskets, all three machines used the same grind setting and produced similar double espresso shots.
Below are the steps for pulling your first shots. Let's assume that you've adjusted your grinder for a reasonable 25-27 second extraction:
- Allow the group at least 25 minutes to warm up.
An accurate and stable brew temperature relies on the entire brew pathway being up to temperature. If you're too rushed in the morning to wait, consider a timer to preheat the machine before you wake.
- Measure out and grind your coffee beans.
I found that 18 grams of coffee beans / a small heaping basket full of grinds worked great (a level basket holds around 17 grams before any settling). Smooth out the grinds to an even bed of coffee. Once tamped down, the coffee will leave the top of the ridge for the basket retention clip exposed.
- Draw water through the group with the portafilter in place.
Observe the "water dance" and listen for the hissing of steam and boiling water. Continue drawing about two ounces of water after the stream has settled down. If you've recently pulled a shot, remember that the cooling flush will be considerably less than the full flush amount of four to six ounces.
- Remove the portafilter, fill and tamp firmly with about 30 pounds
Many people underestimate how hard they are actually pressing. If it helps, imagine the same pressure that you would apply to press out bread dough. The key point to remember is the consistency of your tamp pressure from one extraction to another, not the precise pressure amount itself.
Move briskly, you only have about 30-45 seconds after the cooling flush before the water reaches your target brewing temperature. (Alternatively, remove the retention clip from the portafilter so the basket drops in and removes easily. Then you can tamp at your leisure while the portafilter remains in the grouphead. Once the basket and coffee are ready, a quick turn to remove the portafilter, drop in the basket, then back in the grouphead.)
- Lock in the portafilter and raise the lever to start the
Take a moment after the shot is complete to rinse the grouphead by loosely locking in your second portafilter with a blind basket and running another shot while slowly jiggling the portafilter handle back and forth. This "wiggle-rinse" will wash most of the loose grinds off the grouphead and dispersion screen and over the sides of the portafilter into the drip tray. Be careful not to splash yourself with hot water!
Remember to relock the portafilter back into the grouphead to keep it warm.
At the end of a session, I also recommend a quick water backflush to clear the pathway from the grouphead to the pressure relief valve that empties into the back of the drip tray. Refer to Espresso Machine Cleaning - Why, How, and When for more details on a cleaning regime that applies well to the Andreja Premium.
A double ristretto is a "reduced" espresso closer to 1.25-1.5 ounces in volume instead of the standard two-ounce double. Many espresso aficionados prefer ristrettos because they can emphasize the sweeter, more intense aspects of a coffee blend. The brew pressure for ristrettos is the same as for a standard double, the difference being that less volume is produced over the same twenty-five second extraction.
Vibratory pumps rely on an expansion valve to regulate their maximum pressure. This is because the brew pressure is determined by the resistance of the puck and the expansion valve, whichever is lower. If the expansion valve is set high and the puck offers too much resistance (or what was supposed to be a standard double becomes an "accidental" ristretto), the extraction will be at the expansion valve's higher pressure. A built-in brew pressure gauge is a nice-to-have feature. It is by no means a must-have, since the adjustment is easily done using a portafilter pressure gauge. Nonetheless, the extra built-in gauge is handy for this reason and several others:
- It gives the new home barista helpful feedback.
The expansion valve acts as a "governor" of the vibratory pump by limiting its maximum output, but the puck resistance determines the minimum brew pressure. The brew pressure gauge indicates if you've selected a fine enough grind and tamped appropriately to produce enough resistance for an extraction between 8.5 and 10 bar.
- It is a helpful diagnostic tool.
In addition to simplifying the setting of the maximum brew pressure, it's also helpful for verifying that your pump is in good working order. Of course, a portafilter pressure gauge works equally well for this purpose, if you are willing to spend the extra money for one.
- It is a useful repair aid.
Should the pump ever need replacement, the expansion valve may need a small adjustment to compensate for the variation in output pressure from one vibratory pump to another. This is a relatively minor point, and again, easily addressed with an external portafilter pressure gauge.
My own home machine, La Valentina, has no brew pressure gauge. Curiosity compelled me to install one, but now that the "gee whiz" factor has worn off, I rarely look at it. There's no denying that it does come in handy from time-to-time, and all things being equal, I would choose a machine having one, but I don't consider it an important deciding factor.
One peccadillo high on my checklist is the size and convenience of the drip tray. The Andreja Premium fares well for capacity, holding an impressive 34 ounces. Its drip tray cover is stainless steel with large holes to allow water to enter, but wayward drips would occasionally run along the top of the cover to the edge and then under the drip tray. A screen-type or slotted cover would fix this shortcoming.