For exceptional espresso, you need professional equipment... or do you? - Page 5

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?
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Postby mariobarba » Apr 04, 2012, 8:53 am

I do pretty much the same thing but have never seen that done in a cafe. Is that due to equipment or volume?

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Postby espressotime » Apr 04, 2012, 8:54 am

Viernes wrote:I think yes. But it's not normal, nor in my Duetto. It happens usually on your machine? Usually is due to bad grind setting/bad dosing for the basket.

I drank some really good espresso in Malaga and Barcelona.They must be doing something right.

Maybe I'll fly to Barcelona next weekend .One day trip.95 euro's.Airport is 12 miles away.Leave in the morning,drink some espresso's and back home for dinner in the evening. :mrgreen:

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Postby Abnuceals » Apr 04, 2012, 12:41 pm

The mini Vivaldi is really a no mess machine. After every shot, I rinse the PF with water tap and wipe PF with a microfiber cloth. Then I wipe the screen and basket with the same cloth. If it seems a little bit dirty, I pull a shot of water. Sometimes I use the nylon brush for the gasket.
Most people think coffee gives spirit; in fact boring dudes are more annoying after they drank some - according to Balzac

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Postby da gino » Apr 04, 2012, 1:10 pm

mariobarba wrote:I do pretty much the same thing but have never seen that done in a cafe. Is that due to equipment or volume?

I think the answer is neither one. Both of the WBC competitors whose shops I have visited in Europe rinse their baskets and wipe them out. They are using commercial equipment, but they want to eke out that last little bit towards perfection and have succeeded at being recognized as the best barista in their countries so they are willing to take an extra step. The shops I went to that were not aiming to compete, just aiming to serve pretty good espresso did not always take that step.

I will confess, though, that it is such an easy step to do that I have never experimented and tried skipping it - perhaps that is just my cleanliness ocd at work.

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Postby » Apr 04, 2012, 1:20 pm

Why would someone have to LEARN to clean the equipment after every shot? That ridiculous IMHO. Why would you want to dose dry and fresh grinds into a semi-wet, dirty PF and lock it into a slightly dirty group head? I don't care what conventional wisdom used to be, or how they do it in non-third wave shops that tend to be run by a 'barista' that got a crash course in holding a PF, dosing stale oily beans from a Jolly that 'never' gets adjusted using a $20,000 espresso machine to essentially create a sloppy mess to serve to customers. This has ALWAYS been my experience and I've never had anything I would compare to anything I had in a good third wave shop with a straight face.

You never 'pay less attention' to dose, distribution, temperature, time etc. It just doesn't always have to happen in a very obvious shot-to-shot routine. Example: If a shop owner has a Robur, according to most accounts, they don't NEED to distribute the grinds, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been time spent on getting the dose and shot timing right. I have a question. How do you 'light upward tamp' your dose evenly? You'd have to spend more than a split second pushing the coffee down into the basket to make sure it's level. The very nature of your movement will tend to create a level of grinds that are more compact at the 'front' of the pf. That prep description just sounds like careless service, IMHO.

My sisters know next-to-nothing about coffee or understand espresso prep and they were barista's at an italian coffee shop for 3 years where the regulars always ordered espresso. They just did what they were taught, no more, no less. They learned a process that made AN ESPRESSO, that's it.

Anyway off my soapbox. The third wave shops in Toronto tend to have management and front line staff that care for the product they create to serve you. That's where my money is going when I EVER get out to taste other espresso than my own.

IMHO, in Toronto every Italian Cafe I've been to treats the coffee just the same as the restaurants treat it. That's not a good thing... Something they think they're doing right, but missing on so many levels.
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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Postby da gino » Apr 04, 2012, 1:23 pm

As for the original topic - no, you do not need professional equipment to make exceptional espresso. When I was just getting started I went over to Counter Culture in Chapel Hill for one of the HB friday morning sessions. Dan (HB) brought his Elektra Semi - a prosumer machine. At least on that day the consensus was that the shots he pulled on the Elektra paired with a Super Jolly were better than the shots he or anyone could pull on the La Marzocco 3 group paired with a Robur. Even used a Semi and a Super Jolly will not be cheap, but it does show that more expensive equipment will not always equal better espresso.

That inspired me to buy a Semi, which I loved. Not that every shot was perfect, but I never found anyone who came over who didn't think it could produce exceptional espresso including friends with commercial gear (perhaps they were just polite, but I don't think so). That said I did upgrade to an Elektra T1, which is commercial and do not regret it (but there are not many commercial machines I'd prefer to the Semi). On most coffees the two machines are very similar, but on high acid light roast coffees I think I get better results on the T1. My hunch is that it has something to do with the mass of the machine, but as Nicholas points out I don't know and in some sense it doesn't matter why.

The biggest difference though isn't in the shot of espresso it is in convenience issues like being plumbed in, massive steam power (which I like even for small quantities of milk), rotary pump...

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Postby shadowfax » Apr 04, 2012, 2:14 pm

Indeed, Hugh, the Semi, while not rigged for a commercial environment because of its low-capacity vibratory pump and smaller steam boiler nevertheless shares some major parts with the A3/T1 (basically, most of the brew group). It also costs as much as a lot of commercial equipment.

But, that point does beg a clarification. saying that you need commercial equipment to make exceptional espresso is something of an exaggeration. It's not entirely true. What is true is that you need a great espresso machine. Most commercial machines aren't great. In fact, many of them suck big time—from consumer to commercial. When we talk about commercial machines on HB, I always assumed we were tending to talk about commercial machines you'd want to buy, ones that are pretty great—new or salvaged La Marzoccos (many of which are pretty terrible without modification), Synessos, Elektras, Nuova Simonelli Aurelias—that kind of thing.

Most of the discussion I've read offering counterpoint to the claim that you need pro equipment for exceptional espresso seems to center around that you can get exceptional shots on a consumer-grade espresso machine. Well, OK. You can. Just not as predictably. It's a question of consistency and feedback. Some cheap machines just suck—you will rarely get anything great out of them, ever. Other machines are finicky but can produce consistently good stuff if you temperature surf, stay within a limited dose range, use a certain class of coffee, etc.

Fine. Not interested. That's your thing? Cool. More power to you. But, I don't think that's exceptional. It sounds like an annoying encumbrance to me. I want to be able to pull lots of different coffees well, and to be able to switch around and re-dial-in without tons of fuss and wasted coffee and time pulling sink shots. Machines that let me do that are exceptional (whether they are commercial or not—most of them in my experience are commercial or nearly so), and to me, that is the bar for exceptional espresso.

I get the feeling most of this back-and-forth is about definitions, so I hope that clears up where I am coming from a little bit. Also, to reiterate, while I see the field still heavily stilted towards commercial equipment today, I see it shifting towards parity over the next few years. I'm intrigued by efforts like this one, and I hope they come to fruition and reduce the price barrier to entry for exceptional espresso. Others have already done amazing work in this consumer area, for example the Mypressi Twist. I'm always looking forward to what's next, and my views are always open to change.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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Postby da gino » Apr 04, 2012, 4:23 pm

Nicholas, I think I more or less agree with you.

In particular I did want to make the point that you made that not all commercial equipment is great and that in particular it is probably a small portion that is great, and even of the percent of commercial equipment that is good in a commercial environment not all of it works well at home. (For example a world class grinder with high retention is not a problem in a busy cafe where the turn over is fast enough that waste is minimized, but is not ideal in a home where a massive purge might be too wasteful for an individual's taste - an amazing espresso machine might work best when shots are pulled regularly but might not work as well if shots are only pulled once every few hours...)

I think new hobbiests sometimes just assume that a commercial machine is always better than a prosumer machine and that more expensive is always better than less expensive and neither of those can be considered a hard and fast rule.

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Postby JmanEspresso » Apr 04, 2012, 5:31 pm

Im with Nicholas on this point, I too was thinking that the "commercial" machines were the top dogs of the industry, not the random 2group iberital that the local restaurant supply loaned to the new breakfast shop in town.

I dont think it can be as cut and dry as, "You need top equipment for exception espresso". Too many variables. The most obvious of which would be, the coffee.

I think its like this. The pro gear has the ability to be transparent. Keep the grinder the same for this thought, just consider the machine. It can be whatever the coffee needs it to be. If the coffee likes a big dose and high temps, Ok. Complete opposite? Ok. As opposed to such machines like many of us own, which have their own tendencies. e-61s have their own style, and produce a certain shot. Its much different from the Bezzera grouphead. And the La Spaz Vivaldi has its own setup as well. And each one lends its own flavor to the cup, for better or for worse. And while those three machine types all are capable of producing great espresso, I dont believe each one could make great espresso with as near a wide range of coffees as the pro machine can. The pro machine allows the barista to choose the coffee they want, and assuming they have the skill and knowledge to be choosing whatever coffee they like to make espresso with, they will be able to find success with ease.

I believe part of it is the dual boiler design. We can all debate it until we're blue in the face, but I adamantly believe that the dual boiler espresso machine design is superior when talking about making exceptional espresso. With an HX, you can only adjust the temperature about 2-3degrees without putting a serious spike in the temp profile. Any larger of a temp change requires a P-Stat change. Dual Boiler? Change the temp as the coffee dictates. Further, there is no temp profile. It doesnt ramp to 202, level at 200.5f and then drop to 198 by the shots end. You want 200, you got 200. And I honestly think that, right now, that is the best way to go. This too speaks to the machine being transparent.

Now, so we don't run off on another tangent here, This isnt about HX vs DB, I have no horse in that race, and what Im talking about isn't anything to do with home machines and which one should you buy.

Hope it makes sense to you all like it does to me. Remember, just my opinions, I take no offence should I be proved blatantly wrong :wink:

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Postby Chert » Apr 04, 2012, 10:05 pm

It was a Thursday, so Stephen Rogers was on the bar. He's a kick to watch. Rogers started as a barista more than a decade ago, then roasted coffee at Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea and at Stumptown Coffee Roasters before moving to Arkansas to restore vintage roasting machines. He's in command of his craft, and can make an espresso sit, stay, beg and roll over.

from Oliver Strand.

I love that description "make an espresso sit, stay, beg and roll over."

I fancy I can do this with my equipment based on many many shots with lots of different coffees, but to do it with consistency probably requires high end commercial equipment. I'd like to find out.

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