First "real" espresso machine questions - Page 2

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jormun (original poster)

#11: Post by jormun (original poster) »

k7qz wrote:
+3 on the French press suggestion, particularly if you have the ability to home roast (with something as simple as a stove-top popcorn popper- e.g. a very inexpensive roasting set-up). Why you'll be the hit of your frat house kitchen! :lol: Furthermore, this will allow you to buy green beans from all over the world and sample them via said French press.
This intrigues me. I've never looked into home roasting before (figured one step at a time), but can a popcorn popper really roast coffee effectively?

Anyway, I had a French press my freshman year, and didn't have great luck with it. I don't remember what brand it was, but it was a gift from my mom so it was probably the best you can buy at Borders or somewhere equivalent. The coffee was consistently gritty, regardless of how fine or coarse my grind was (I was using store-ground coffee at that point). I used it for about six months before the handle snapped off.
This is not to say that I'm completely ignoring the idea, I've just not had a good experience with them in the past.

Back to the grinders, there's a post in the Marketplace that has a Maestro Plus for about $100. Would this be sufficient for great French press and/or adequate espresso? Edit: Or a regular Maestro on Ebay for under $50? I know I'm going to evoke a lot of "under $100=bad" responses but seriously, for someone really just getting into good espresso I'm thinking it might be a good place to start.

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HB
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#12: Post by HB »

jormun wrote:This intrigues me. I've never looked into home roasting before (figured one step at a time), but can a popcorn popper really roast coffee effectively?
Yes, although I've not tried it myself, Mike Walsh roasts a very good espresso with a popcorn popper. The Best Way to Improve your Shot is a Popcorn Popper! and references on http://www.sweetmarias.com describe how.
Dan Kehn

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jesawdy

#13: Post by jesawdy »

jormun wrote:Back to the grinders, there's a post in the Marketplace that has a Maestro Plus for about $100. Would this be sufficient for great French press and/or adequate espresso?
A most definite yes on the French press. You probably won't have tremendous results, but good results on espresso, but not a lot of room for adjustment in acceptable espresso grinds. Some folks mod the Solis machines to allow for more adjustments within the espresso range. Try searching coffeegeek.com for available mods to the different Solis machines.
Edit: Or a regular Maestro on Ebay for under $50?
For French press, yes. For espresso, I think you'd be better off with the Plus version. More adjustment on the plus, and I think the burr carrier was improved upon a little bit.

I think the weakness of the Solis is in the burr carriers, they are plastic as opposed to the big heavy threaded brass burr carriers on the Rocky, Mazzer or Cimbali grinders.

Have you done any looking into whether you can use a non-pressurized portafilter on the machine you have? After a grinder, that would be my next step.
Jeff Sawdy

jormun (original poster)

#14: Post by jormun (original poster) »

jesawdy wrote: Have you done any looking into whether you can use a non-pressurized portafilter on the machine you have? After a grinder, that would be my next step.
I haven't looked, I was under the impression that a machine is designed to use either pressurized or non, but not both. I'll check into it this evening.
For that matter, if you'll humor a newbie, what difference does it make?

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jesawdy

#15: Post by jesawdy »

jormun wrote:I haven't looked, I was under the impression that a machine is designed to use either pressurized or non, but not both. I'll check into it this evening.
For that matter, if you'll humor a newbie, what difference does it make?
Here's something from http://www.espressomacchina.ca/before/before.html
What they don't tell you: the pressurized portafilter

From the Saeco machines sold at Home Outfitters to the Starbucks' home line, the majority of machines under $450 dollars use what is known as a pressurized portafilter. The pressurized portafilter produces what experts refer to as "frothed coffee." The pressurized portafilter contains a mechanism that won't allow your espresso to be extracted until the pressure inside the portafilter reaches a certain level. When it does reach this level, the espresso goes through two outlets: the mesh of the basket, and a pinhole sized valve underneath that basket. When the espresso goes through that valve, any true crema is destroyed.

Have you wondered how Starbucks justifies selling the Barista home machine? One would think it might be dangerous to their margins: if everyone had a Barista machine, wouldn't their stores be empty? The reality is, they can sell their home machines because without a proper portafilter or grinder and be assured the coffee they make in stores is still better than that produced with their home machines.
Have you read The Home Barista's Guide to Espresso yet? If not, you should start there.

The problem with the pressurized portafilter is that you want the coffee puck to create your backpressure, not a mechanical device. By getting all the variables right (quality beans, volume of ground coffee, correct grind level, properly distributed and dosed grinds, and tamp), you will create the appropriate backpressure device from the coffee itself to do a proper extraction. It helps if the pump in your machine is also set to something reasonable pressure wise or has an over-pressure valve, but you can do it without the fancy schmancy stuff, it's just a lot harder to do.

Depending on the design of the Delonghi portafilter, you may be able to defeat the pressurized portafilter gizmo, or you may be able to purchase another portafilter that fits. For example, the Starbuck's Barista machine is made by Saeco... a replacement portafilter for other Saeco machine's fit the Starbuck's machine and cost about $20-30. I have no idea what (if anything) will fit your machine. I see Whole Latte Love carries that machine... you might try calling them to see if something else fits it.
Jeff Sawdy

Zzyzx

#16: Post by Zzyzx »

jormun wrote:I've never looked into home roasting before (figured one step at a time), but can a popcorn popper really roast coffee effectively?
I roasted with a whirley pop for 7 years with great results. I just now upgraded to a RK drum, which btw is just fantastic!

ZZ

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TruthBrew

#17: Post by TruthBrew »

FWIW, I have a Bodum Antigua which I use at work daily. I think it would be a decent cheaper choice for press pot or pour-over, but I can't see how it would hold up for espresso. Unless you can get it cheap < $45, I would save up for a bit better model.