First "real" espresso machine questions

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jormun

#1: Post by jormun »

I've been using a cheap Walmart "espresso machine" to make good, pretty strong coffee for years now. A few days ago I finally got a real espresso machine, a Delonghi Bar42 off Ebay. It makes something much closer to a real espresso, but it tastes much more bitter than my old machine. I've pulled eight or ten shots from it, and the overall quality of the shot is starting to improve, but I can't shake the bitter taste. I have a good whirly blade grinder (yes, i know) until I can save up for a halfway decent burr, but it gets it pretty fine, nearly to powder consistency. I've tried different tamping pressure and strangely it seems to come out better with a very light tamp. I've read through the manual but it didn't say anything on technique, only how to use the machine. Is there something I can change in my technique to get a better flavor?

Also, I keep ending up with watery pucks afterwards, often with a puddle of water on top. Is this just something pressurized portafilter machines do, or can I prevent it somehow?

k7qz

#2: Post by k7qz »

A few days ago I finally got a real espresso machine, a Delonghi Bar42 off Ebay.
Umm, on second thought I'll just let this alone...

I have a good whirly blade grinder (snip) Is there something I can change in my technique to get a better flavor?
At the risk of sounding harsh, IMO there is nothing that you will be able to do to acheive espresso on the level that the good folks on this board crank out routinely while using a blade grinder... Sorry, just a statement of fact.

The grinder is probably the single greatest contributor to "good espresso". My personal opinion would be that a Rocky would be the bare minimum requirement for one's grinder but others here may have suggestions of lesser expense for you.

Again, not trying to dishearten you, rather save you the effort of you trying to acheive noteworthy espresso with this gear configuration...

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HB
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#3: Post by HB »

jormun wrote:I've pulled eight or ten shots from it, and the overall quality of the shot is starting to improve, but I can't shake the bitter taste. I have a good whirly blade grinder (yes, i know) until I can save up for a halfway decent burr, but it gets it pretty fine, nearly to powder consistency.
It's the grinder. Even my jaded father, who went through two whirly blade grinders over 20 years, raves (and I mean raves) about his coffee after I bought him a decent grinder (Solis Maestro Plus). At first he said, "What?!? That's huge! What's wrong with my Krups blade grinder?" Now he regularly extols the difference a grinder makes to his friends, who are equally amazed ("Oh Jack, you make the most wonderful coffee! Where do you buy it?").

It would be an interesting experiment to compare a French press prepared using your blade grinder and a good cafe's grinder. If you're friendly with the owner, you might ask them to do a side-by-side for you one slow afternoon. If it's a good fresh coffee, their grinder is clean, and it's properly prepared, you'll distinctly taste why it matters. And for espresso, the difference is only magnified.

PS: It's that time of year... why not send one of your loved ones a link to Best Inexpensive Grinder? :D
Dan Kehn

jormun

#4: Post by jormun »

Yeah, that's pretty much what I expected you to say. I'm very likely getting a grinder (most likely a bodum antigua or capresso 560 infinity) for christmas, or I would have bought one by now. I'm your typical broke college student and so don't have money for a Rocky or its peers, and I don't think any of my loved ones would both see the point of and have the money for a $200+ grinder. But with any luck, my dad will do his usual "here's $300, go upgrade your computer or something" gift so even if I don't get something decent I'll have a bit of spending money (even if that dual core processor has to wait a few more months).

As far as the machine, I know it's junk at the original retail price of $300. But for $30 shipped I figured it couldn't be any worse than my steam toy. It was between that and a Gaggia Espresso for three times the cost, and as I said I'm usually pretty broke. But would it be worthwhile to sell that machine and put the money towards, say, a $50 gran gaggia? I've seen good reviews for the Espresso in its price point, but nothing about the Gran.

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HB
Admin

#5: Post by HB »

Call me nuts, but I'd rather drink fantastic French press than ordinary espresso. So in a money pinch, I'll opt for a nice grinder and order espresso at a cafe on the weekends (assuming I can find one that's good). Lately I've been mixing it up with half-time espresso, half-time French press. Please don't ask what happen to my... sniff! ...vacuum pot.

PS: What you really need to do is hustle over to the Marketplace and play to win the Mazzer Mini. :-)

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Dan Kehn

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mogogear

#6: Post by mogogear »

While you are out in the world or "all is new" The world of grinders can be improved alot by the addition of even a simple old German type hand grinder. Most on this thread might not subscribe to one, but I can say they will grind as fine as you want. Yes , they are "un-sexy " in a way... and in a way very satisfying to use but for $50 ( including shipping off of Flea-bay), you can make better, much better espresso with them. You will also need to get beans like the ones Dan showed you( Intelligentsia, Cafe Fresco , Olympia Coffee and any of the sites bean sponsors) It is a fact that you won't believe till you taste really fresh!!

The espresso from your machine will surprise you when you can have consistent size grounds of a freshly roasted bean...

also distributed evenly in the Portafilter, tamped correctly etc , etc etc ( those are questions down the road.) First things first!!

No doubt you can buy a doser / non-doser grinder of many varieties, but even the hand grinder can be a bookend if you decide to move beyond it while you see how far down the espresso road you go.. it will always be there and can really be an easy ally.

Have fun and ask us all the questions you want
greg moore

Leverwright
LMWDP #067

jormun

#7: Post by jormun »

I've seen a few hand grinders around and I was wondering if any of them were any good. Are they all pretty much the same, or is there a particular type/brand I should look for? I don't mind the work grinding coffee by hand, so if I can get as good results out of a $40 hand grinder as a $100 electric I see no reason not to go cheap.

bainesy

#8: Post by bainesy »

jormun wrote:would it be worthwhile to sell that machine and put the money towards, say, a $50 gran gaggia? I've seen good reviews for the Espresso in its price point, but nothing about the Gran.
No. The Gran is not a proper Gaggia - it has a weedy group and aluminium (or is that aluminum for you guys?) portafilter. I can't imagine it would be any improvement on the Delonghi. Gaggias with brass groups and portafilters begin at the Carezza (afaik).
LMWDP #87

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luca
Team HB

#9: Post by luca »

Call me nuts, but I'd rather drink fantastic French press than ordinary espresso.
Couldn't agree more. There are a variety of conical burr grinders using the trespade burr set or similar. Commonly, those with stepped adjustments are utterly inadequate for espresso, but they should be absolutely fine for french press. I have survived a bunch of conferences armed with a friend's nemox lux grinder and a FP. A word of advice, though - the few bleary-eyed people that actually make it to breakfast will demand a share ;P

To put it into perspective, the cost of a decent grinder and a FP is probably less than a cheap espresso machine and the results are going to be quite close to using a FP with a grinder ten times as expensive. I recently impoverished myself and my family for generations to come by upgrading my rocky/silvia combination to a maver marte/mazzer mini combination and the results on the former barely resembled what I'm getting from the latter at all. All of this is just to illustrate that if you spend a certain amount of money on FP, you get great results. With espresso, you can spend an infinite amount and still want more.
jormun wrote:I've seen a few hand grinders around and I was wondering if any of them were any good. Are they all pretty much the same, or is there a particular type/brand I should look for? I don't mind the work grinding coffee by hand, so if I can get as good results out of a $40 hand grinder as a $100 electric I see no reason not to go cheap.
The brand that everyone seems to talk about is Zassenhaus, however a friend of mine recently bought one for grinding for his french press when travelling and it was perhaps the most woefully inadequate blade grinder that I have ever seen. Every grind setting was a mixture of large chunks and dust.

Cheers,

Luca
LMWDP #034 | 2011: Q Grader Exam, Brewer's Cup #3, Australian Cup Tasting #1

k7qz

#10: Post by k7qz »

HB wrote:Please don't ask what happen to my... sniff! ...vacuum pot.
Probably the same thing that happened to mine- broke it while trying to wash the insides out would be my hunch...

+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.

But, you're still gonna' need a real grinder! :wink: