Lever Espresso Machines Smackdown - Page 17

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peacecup

#161: Post by peacecup »

Timo brings up the point that the smaller-diameter piston has a relatively greater brew pressure - I'd forgotten to add this,

PC
LMWDP #049
Hand-ground, hand-pulled: "hands down.."

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Fullsack

#162: Post by Fullsack »

peacecup wrote:I have consistently noted that good-quality espresso can be achieved using multiple pulls on the Ponte Vecchio. I believe this is in part due to the 45-mm group shape. Regardless of why, I think it is important that potential buyers be aware that it is possible, because many are concerned that the small group size will be a limitation. Needless to say the 45-mm group is not the best for pulling 20g, 2-oz. espressos. But it works well for up to ~1.5 oz shots. Fullsack's 13-g, one pull shots are an example of one very good way to use the PV, but there are others.
Though a ristretto is my shot of choice, I would like to be able to pull a decent normale on the Lusso. What multi-pull technique is working for you on your Export Jack? How hard of a tamp, etc?

Thanks,
Doug
LMWDP #017
Kill all my demons and my angels might die too. T. Williams

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HB (original poster)
Admin

#163: Post by HB (original poster) »

Fullsack wrote:Though a ristretto is my shot of choice, I would like to be able to pull a decent normale on the Lusso.
See Lever multiple pull techniques for an extensive discussion of light tamp/multiple pulls on the Lusso.
Dan Kehn

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#164: Post by cannonfodder »

I roasted some of my Brazil Fazenda Pedra Preta #3 COE on Tuesday. Today I made a pot of coffee with it and decided to pull some SO espressos on the Elektra with it. Wow, the clarifying properties of the Elektra Microcasa Leva combined with the Cimbali Max conical gave me an eye opening espresso.

Not only was the flavor smooth and complex without any hint of bitter, but the texture was like melted butter. Incredibly creamy shot with just the right amount of sweetness. I was pulling a more ristretto shot from the Elektra. I gave the lever a generous 7 second hold, released and let the lever raise maybe a quarter of a stroke (no coffee drips yet) then re-cocked, held for 3 seconds and let it run. I was rewarded with one ounce of ambrosia. Can lightning strike twice? An hour later I pulled another, same result. I need to roast another half pound of this just to use in the Microcasa.
Dave Stephens

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peacecup

#165: Post by peacecup »

Fullsack wrote:Though a ristretto is my shot of choice, I would like to be able to pull a decent normale on the Lusso. What multi-pull technique is working for you on your Export Jack? How hard of a tamp, etc?
Sorry it took so long to respond - busy holiday season!

I almost always use two pulls with the double basket, and occasionally three or even four. Two is my current standard, using ~ 15g of coffee, and producing ~30 ml - a 50% brew ratio shot. One issue is that a full basket only leaves the piston cylinder space for water, so each pull is only ~15 ml.

I believe a more coarsely-ground (and therefore harder-tamped) puck is less likely to be damaged during multiple pulls, because it allows air or water to be drawn slightly back up through it during re-cocking of the lever. I have not tested this directly, but as I have gravitated towards finer grinding lately, I have noticed the pucks do not always pop out intact after brewing. No matter to me - I just forge ahead pulling at will, and drinking great espresso. In the AM if I want a wake-up call I'll take three pulls, and I still notice little if any blonding. And I have a very nice cappa in my 6-oz Nuova Point cup.

A while ago, in response to a topic by grong in the lever forum, I posted that the PV double basket could hold ~16g. I borrowed a scale to measure these, but have not weighed since. I suspect the PV basket will hold slightly more than 16g if finely-ground, but this might choke the machine. And again, the more finely-ground (hence lightly-tamped) puck might be more easily disturbed.

The short answer: if you want the best results with multiple pulls it may be worth trying to fill the basket very full (the PV happily requires almost NO headspace!), grind more coarsely, and tamp more firmly.

PC
LMWDP #049
Hand-ground, hand-pulled: "hands down.."

calb

#166: Post by calb »

peacecup wrote:I believe a more coarsely-ground (and therefore harder-tamped) puck is less likely to be damaged during multiple pulls, because it allows air or water to be drawn slightly back up through it during re-cocking of the lever. I have not tested this directly, but as I have gravitated towards finer grinding lately, I have noticed the pucks do not always pop out intact after brewing.

PC
I have noticed that the quality of my espresso isn't directly related to the quality of the puck. With 1.5 pull of my Europiccola I have obtained good espresso with messy pucks and also less good shots with perfect pucks.
Anyway 1 pull of the lever gives me generally better (but too small) shots irrespective of the aspect of the puck so I think the problem doesn't lie exclusively in how the 2nd pull affects the puck...
Also I get better results with a lightish tamping (both for 1 and 2 pulls).

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HB (original poster)
Admin

#167: Post by HB (original poster) »

And now for something completely different...

This particular Bench review has drawn considerable attention and comments from the membership's lever espresso machine aficionados. We've split off some of the more protracted discussions so they would not be "lost" in review commentary. To refocus this thread on the star of the review, the Ponte Lusso Vecchio, I asked if one of the board's most dedicated Elektra Microcasa a Leva baristas, KarlSchneider, would be willing to lend a hand in comparing these two spring-powered lever machines. The timing around the holiday worked perfectly into his schedule.

His observations are presented as a series of essays. In order to appreciate them fully, we agreed it would be better if they were developed offline and presented as a whole. For the past few weeks, Karl has dutifully posted his thoughts in a private forum where the other Smackdown reviewers could read his commentary and if necessary, ask for clarifications. I believe you will find the essays that follow quite enjoyable and insightful. Many thanks Karl for your contributions!
Dan Kehn

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KarlSchneider

#168: Post by KarlSchneider »

Ponte Vecchio Lusso: Day One Impressions
Tuesday December 11, 2007

The Ponte Vecchio Lusso 1-group test machine arrived yesterday. I was immediately struck by the distinctly compact size of the machine. When my Elektra Micro casa a leva first arrived just a short time after H-B appeared (July, 05) I was quite taken with its legitimate, literal name -- "small, home lever" and I was even more impressed with the greater compactness of my Olympia Cremina when it arrived the following spring. My espresso machines live and are used in the kitchen. Their ability to fit under standard kitchen counters is a high priority for me. If one has a separate Templum di Espresso such considerations are obviously unimportant.



For me, however, the much more important issue is the quality of the espresso. These two small machines make delightful (and very different) espresso. My essential question in reviewing the Lusso is whether it can also do the same.

Setting up the Lusso was very simple. Having experience with two other lever machines I immediately noted one difference. The boiler on the Lusso is larger (3L) than is the 1.8L boilers on both the Micro casa a leva and the Cremina. So, the Lusso took more Brita filtered Crystal Geyser spring water to fill. I decided at the start to try to follow the standard procedures I use with my levers as much as possible in order to minimize variables (including using the same water). I am already learning this is easier planned than successfully completed and will try to document the issues that emerge.

Another difference quickly noted was heat up. The Elektra Microcasa a leva heats to the point where the heating light first goes out in 13 min. The Cremina does the same in about 9 min. For the Microcasa a leva I bleed false pressure off by opening the steam wand momentarily towards the end of the warm-up. The boiler cap on my Cremina does this through a release valve. The light on the Lusso goes off at ca. 8 min. After bleeding false pressure the heat up continues for 3 additional minutes before again reaching "brewing" temperature.

This different heat-up sequence might have suggested a larger difference in the machines but I failed to notice. I then pulled three shots using the single basket and a single pull, again based on my standard practice with my Microcasa a leva and Cremina. The shots were drinkable but not worth describing. One feature, however, stood out. All were far too cool. Consulting with Dan and further reflection pointed to an obvious point: The Lusso's group takes far longer to reach preferred brewing temperature than either the Microcasa a leva or the Cremina. This points to a decision criteria for potential buyers. My procedure with the Micro casa a leva is to start pulling shots immediately upon the heating light first going out. This machine overheats quickly. Managing this issue includes not letting the hot machine sit idle. This is also true for the Cremina, but to a lesser degree. The Lusso, in contrast, seems to need a longer warm-up -- probably 20 minutes or more. Others have reported that the Lusso can be left on for extended time (after warm-up) without over-heating. Workarounds exist for quick over-heating and for slow warm-up but they do have an impact on daily practice. My espresso-making involves making 2 Americanos for myself and 2 for my wife every morning and three espressos for myself each evening. The quick warm up and a short brew window of the Micro casa a leva and the Cremina are perfectly suited to these patterns, however I could adapt to the characteristics of the Ponte Vecchio Lusso.

A different strong first impression is that the machine feels very solid and well made. The lever mechanism in particular stands out as feeling well-built. In this sense the machine lives up to its name "Lusso" (luxury).

For these first impressions I chose for espresso a Yemen Mokha Sana'ani from Sweet Maria's I roasted in my Hottop P. For Americanos, I roasted a 2007 Ethiopia Limited - Yirgacheffe Idido Teramad from Paradise. These two coffees show their best in my Microcasa a leva, so I think they represent a good first test for the Lusso. The grinder I will be using for all testing is my Fiorenzato Doge 63 (thanks to the Titan Grinder Project convincing me I needed to upgrade from my Mazzer Mini). The Doge 63, by the way, clearly violates my "Small is Beautiful" thesis above.



I find it too big for the space I have and would much prefer a more compact grinder. Unfortunately it grinds extraordinarily well and has a far nicer doser than my 2002 manual-switch Mazzer Mini.

KS
LMWDP # 008

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KarlSchneider

#169: Post by KarlSchneider »

Ponte Vecchio Lusso: Searching for a Method
Sunday December 16, 2007

Now that I have had a few days making morning Americanos and evening espressos in the Lusso I think I am at least starting to get the hang of it. As preciously indicated my plan is to follow the method I use for my Microcasa a leva and Cremina. This includes topping off the tank with each use. I thought I might not need to do this with the Lusso because of its larger boiler. I note two things in topping off its boiler. One is that like the Cremina, the use of a funnel is required. Ponte Vecchio provides an adequate plastic funnel. By contrast the top of the Microcasa a leva boiler is actually funnel-shaped and no funnel is needed. This is of note in that while the Elektra "retro" (as Elektra calls them) products are always praised for their appearance it is less often that they receive similar praise for other design qualities. This is further seen in another boiler-filling comparison. The Lusso and the Cremina both have water-level glass columns mounted inside their metal cases. I find these hard to read and have to use a flashlight to read them (because my sight is very poor). By comparison the Microcasa a leva has a much more easily read see-through water-level indicator. These are small differences but not irrelevant for one who fills an espresso machine twice daily.

Having initially not allowed the Lusso to adequately warm up as noted in Day One Impressions, I am now running more water through the group for heating and thus using more water and needing to fill the tank more frequently than anticipated. A related difference is that the Lusso has a cup warmer. I recall originally missing this when I moved from my HX machine to the Microcasa a leva. With the Microcasa a leva I did nothing to monitor cup warming. Cupboard temperature works fine. With the Lusso I am returning to cup heating.

Let me now turn to the process of pulling shots.


I grind beans separately for each cup which allows me to use different beans for my wife's coffee and for mine (she can only have decaf). I measure coffee by volume using one of Les Abjerg's beautiful Desert Ironwood coffee scoops.



I get subtle differences as needed by using heaping or level or shallow fills on the requisite number of scoops per shot. On this week's two coffees the grinder settings for the Microcasa a Leva and for the Lusso are very, very close.

I am using the Lusso portafilter without the spring clip to hold in the filter basket as I do with the Microcasa a leva. The Cremina has none. I have multiple single and double baskets and seldom have to clean one until done pulling shots. I "dose" the ground coffee directly into a filter basket, tap the top edge of the basket NSEW with my finger to level then tamp and place the basket into the portafilter.

I noticed a curious passage in the Lusso manual. After locking the portafilter in place we are told:
Raise the lever down (while holding the filter holder handle with the other hand in order to keep the machine steady) and keep it in this position for some seconds until the first drops of coffee come out.
What fascinates me is the recommended two-handed grasp of the machine. I have been doing this for a long time with my Microcasa a leva and Cremina. The Microcasa a leva can blow an improperly locked portafilter out of the group and that is "an event to experience" I can assure everyone. Included in 4000 Microcasa a leva pulls have been more than two of these. But in truth, far more important is having both hands on those handles throughout the entire pull. This is, for me, at least as important with a spring lever as it is an obvious necessity for a manual. There is a great deal of changing tension involved and this is palpably present to your hands. You feel the water filling the group as well as hear it. You feel and with experience recognize the proper or improper resistance in the puck as well as observe it in elapsed time of the pull. The Lusso with its lever mechanism is excellent in transmitting this kind of information to the perceptive user.

This morning I had a first successful side-by-side comparison of the Lusso and the Microcasa a leva. Morning coffee is Americano. I chose the Microcasa a leva for this comparison for two reasons. As a spring lever, it is more similar to the Lusso. More importantly, the Microcasa a leva is always my machine of choice for Americanos because it makes them more to my liking. For these I almost always use different coffee from what I use for espresso. Coffees that make the best espresso also make a good Americano but exceptional Americanos come from beans that seldom make, to my taste, the best espresso. This weeks morning coffee is a superb Yirgacheffe. It is a wet processed coffee and I do not like espresso from it. My favorite coffee of all for these is Kona. I also like Sumatra and the brighter Brazils. Had a delightful Panama Carmen Estate recently as well.

I use a double basket for these and grind the beans a tiny bit finer since the wider bottom diameter of the basket allows the desired 25 sec. flow rate for a finer grind. I use ca. 10 - 12g. For these I also make a double pull and typically two full pulls. Since the Lusso gives a smaller end volume I decided to try the same 12g, the double basket, the same grind setting and three pulls. I was extremely pleased with the result. The quality I am looking for here is first of all true taste of the coffee itself. Clarity of taste is far more important than body or texture. The method of extraction in an espresso machine brings out the unique quality of each coffee and does so far better than French press or than any other method I have used. The Lusso brought out the precise character of this special Yirgacheffe. Since I roast darker than many, the citrus and exotic flavors in it are less pronounced but glorious in harmony. The same coffee made in the Microcasa a leva was different. Here it is still another step lighter but at the same time even more dazzlingly clear. I have to say the Microcasa a leva did a better job on this coffee today. But I would also add that the difference is not huge. Compared to the Cremina on this coffee made in this way, I would choose the Lusso.

KS
LMWDP # 008

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KarlSchneider

#170: Post by KarlSchneider »

Ponte Vecchio Lusso: Study of Artisan Espresso
Monday December 17, 2007

My initial results in making espresso in the Lusso have followed very much my experiences previously with my Microcasa a leva and Cremina (and ECM Giotto as well). The beginning is very erratic. One makes some very poor pulls, some decent ones and a few really fine ones. If you graph quality on the y-axis and time on the x-axis a high amplitude sine wave would be the result. Maybe nothing quite so regular. There is huge variability and too little experiential basis for making adjustments. This is one reason I am trying to follow known methods as much as possible. The espresso's this first week have all had a Microcasa a leva / spring lever friendly roast, a Yemen Sana'ani. Next week I have two Brazil roasts, a Minas Gerais Competition - 3rd Place for Americanos and an Organic Fazenda Jacaranda for espresso. The latter made better espresso in the Cremina than the Microcasa a leva and I expect it will do better in the Lusso than in the Microcasa a leva.

An early observation is that these three machines are significantly different from each other. It is tempting to put them on a continuum with the Microcasa a leva at one end where clarity of taste is accompanied by delicacy, lightness of body and texture. At the other end would be the Cremina with the more powerful texture and substance but with individuality of flavor not as primary. The Lusso is somewhere in between. However, I am not sure I find this clarity-richness equilibrium accurate. It is too simple.

The Lusso has characteristic pulls that may not be simply a (slight) compromise clarity Microcasa a leva or a (slight) compromise rich Cremina pull. It would take a long time with the Lusso to answer this question. One reason this does not seem such a simple question is that one has to consider the goal one sets for oneself. At first this is of course easy. We all want the best possible espresso the machine can make. And we want this quality on as regular a basis as possible. Both machine and user are factors in reaching this goal. My focus on paying attention to method / ritual is aimed at making the operator role as normal as possible. But the plot thickens. One thing has become clearer to me in just a few days with the Lusso. While I am certainly interested in quality regularity, I am much more fascinated as the taster with the possibilities of individual differences in tastes. This was brought to my attention tonight with the first two truly exciting shots from the Lusso. After two shots of the end of the Yemen Sana'ani that were actually quite good (but not remarkable) I switched to less than 24-hour-old Brazil Jacaranda. No question it was too young. But that fact paled in comparison to the flavors that were already singing. These were not the central flavors because they are still tightly closed. But the primary background note was exciting. It was as if you were looking at a painting and did not quite register what the scene was but already knew the representation of light was incredible. I doubt the Microcasa a leva will ever get these flavors so beautifully out in front. It is Monet rather than Van Gogh.

This underscores one strong response I have. These different high-end home machines have qualities that bring forth many nuances (and not the same ones) of different coffees. This is the essential element in what I might call artisan espresso in contrast to café espresso. Each can be a wonderful thing and should not be placed in opposition to each other. To me artisan espresso aims at creating single, unique tastes. The Microcasa a leva, the Cremina and the Lusso appear to me to have more fascinating differences in what they produce than they have similarities as levers.

KS
LMWDP # 008