Blind tasting espresso machines in the cup

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#1: Post by marteccino »

just saw the pics of the coffee set ups mainly GS's La Marzoccos, Slayers, and higher end grinders that compliment them well, and then i was reading some criticism of what they called the "outdated" e61 based coffee machines thread, even though most of the consumer makers are still using them besides some higher end ones beforementioned of course, and my question is HOW MANY OF YOU ACTUALLY DARED TO DO THE BLIND TASTING, while upgrading or just comparing the machines, and not drinking a shot knowing which one is which automatically thinking "yeah it tastes better, because it's better technically, double boiler, profiling, more expensive machine, etc, so it must be better" hahaha, has anyone done this and then actually knew? because placebo effect is one hell of a drug
but i assume, not many people have this opportunity though..


#2: Post by mrjag »

I see the bait, but I'll post anyways since I've actually done this several times.

Each time I changed grinders I used the following process to compare:
I pull 4 shots, rotating between the old grinder and the new grinder, into 4 identical cups. The cups are labeled with a post-it note indicating A or B. I have my wife sip from each and jot down some thoughts. Then I have her pass me the cups in random order with the stickies removed and I take a sip from each. We compare notes at the end and they are usually pretty close. Not sure if this would be considered single or double blind. At a minimum, my tastings are more blind than hers because she sees the A/B sticky notes.

Vario vs Compak E10 => I expected an obvious bias towards the E10 and ended up picking it as the winner by a large margin during the blind testing. Further non-blind comparison closed the gap on occasion and it really came down to consistency.
Compak E10 vs Monolith Conical => I was expecting some improvement in the Monolith but it ended up being a 50/50 choice during the blind-testing.
(Although my wife picked the Monolith both times in her selection). Further non-blind comparison led me to preferring Conical for process workflows reasons.
Monolith Conical vs Sette 270 => I expected a large gap in favor of the Monolith, but I liking both during the blind testing. Monolith ended up getting my votes as the better of the two. I still own the Sette but have not done any additional comparisons.

Edit to add that it's hard to do this truly blind because if you spend enough time with a machine or grinder to dial it in then you probably have spent enough time with it to know its taste profile. I think you'd have to have someone else expertly operate the machines and pull the shots for you, which is a bit of a tall order in a home environment.

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#3: Post by »

There are objective differences in different types of groupheads and control among different types of machines. I'm not familiar with the thread on the "outdated e61", but I imagine the messages were more focused on new innovations in group head and plumbing tech that make observable/tasty differences in the cup. It's not about how an e61 is incapable of being a part of an excellent espresso journey, it's that the e61 tech is really starting to show its age and starting to feel more limiting then perhaps it has in the past.
I know I've pulled a great shot when the flavour is 'like a beany taste that tastes like a bean'.

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#4: Post by another_jim »

Many of the reviews on this site feature blind taste tests done at Counter Culture's lab. These feature the test machines against commercial LM Stradas. As is usual for blind tests done with competent equipment by competent people, the differences are usually small and contingent.

People make two kinds of mistakes when faced with these tests. The first is the hi-fi snob mistake "I'm so sensitive, refined and rich that I can easily tell the more expensive gear is clearly better under all circumstances." The second is the populist yob mistake "these fancy pants wannabes are just making it all up" In actual fact, the accumulation of small improvements does eventually add up, very slowly, but pretty surely.

As for E61s. Their temperature control is good, but not as good, or as nimble, as saturated groups or well designed integrated heater/group units. However, it is possible to build high quality E61 machines for several thousand dollars less than the equivalent quality in saturated group machines, simply because the parts are mass produced. Moreover, temperature control becomes less critical if one can control pressure/flow during the shot, as with all levers or the new wave of pump machines.

So whether the shot making edge the expensive saturated group machines have over E61s is worth their extra cost has become fairly debatable. Most owners of LMs, Slayers, or Kees machines cite the pleasure of working with hand made, "cost is no object" gear as an important part of their ownership pleasure.
Jim Schulman


#5: Post by linuxAndJavaScript »

The owner of Seattle Coffee did a blind test between a $300 machine and a rocket. She was able to tell the difference. However, she said that the difference was not that much surprisingly.

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#6: Post by Denis »

You could see the difference in those 2 cups just by looking at the color of the crema. I already knew before she told us which was what.

The biggest difference in coffee comes in this order:
coffee (quality of the beans, roast, how old they are green and roasted)-grinder (using a gaggia mdf or a hario with one expensive one cheap will narrow the gap)-water (precise recipe water will bring a lot more flavors inside the cup- this one I experienced after I moved to a city where water was not so great, but at the coffee shop the coffee was way better and I was using the same grinder and similar machine, water was the difference)- then espresso machine.

A e61 vs a normal standard machine is easy to detect because as you can see in that video, the e61 makes darker crema because of the standard 8-10 second preinfusion of the grouphead. There is more EY in the e61.

If you put everything in money and numbers, for most it will not be worth the difference of a few thousand $ just for 10-20% improvement, and this is OK, not everyone has the same level of passion.


#7: Post by toolate »

why are we sure that one cup is objectively better than another? clearly we might PREFER one cup over another.

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#8: Post by Denis »

Sure, just that with the black little machine that has 0 preinfusion you get a nice underextracted shot.

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#9: Post by yakster »

And your consistency shot-to-shot will be better with the E61.

LMWDP # 272


#10: Post by ds »

Interesting contrast to this question is that we normally never do blind tasting so placebo is always in effect. Question is why would this be bad? If coffee tastes better, does it matter that its partially because of placebo? Almost every medical drug study includes some portion of patients that got all the benefits of the drug from placebo. Are benefits not real?