Making the case against Super Automatics - Page 2

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?
User avatar
another_jim
Team HB

#11: Post by another_jim »

Bushrod wrote:There's a Seattle's Best kiosk here at the Pentagon with a Brasilia two group. I was actually tempted to try the espresso one day. Wow, that was a mistake!

The ladies are really nice. Maybe they'll let me make my own drink one of these days...
It would be hard for even a barista champ to do anything palatable with Seattle's Best. Bring them a bag of Counter Culture's Toscano -- maybe they'll jump ship.
Jim Schulman

Canuck

#12: Post by Canuck »

mteahan wrote:I have spent the better part of 4 years working with a very large espresso manufacturer in Italy trying to revise and improve automated espresso machines. The ability to produce barista quality espresso is actually quite easy; the difficulty is getting the machines to do so reliably.

In order to make an automated machine produce quality, the settings have to be adjusted to create the most stress on the components of the machine. Passageways easily clog with coffee, tamp pressures push the limits of materials and construction and maintenance requirements increase dramatically.

You can make great coffee for a few days or mediocre coffee for a month; that's the trade off.

Swiss machines tend to be more reliable, but the extraction expectation in the Swiss market makes the machines not very popular in Italy. The fact that Americans maintain their machines so poorly is a good reason why the Swiss have succeeded so well in the US. It's also why super-autos have a bad rap for quality. The show settings and the real world settings are always quite different.

The REAL problem with super-automatics is a subtle one, and it's not mechanical:

The process removes the operator so much from the process of making and dressing the drink that they just don't care. There is no investment in learning or understanding what makes a good beverage. The machine can reliably produce great quality, but whoever pushes the button is ill equipped and likely inadequately trained to know good from evil.

I can setup an automated machine that (aside from latte art) would produce a drink whose flavor profile and presentation would be indistinguishable from a hand made drink by a seasoned barista. After a week on site in the hands of people who could care less about quality--or simply don't know--it would begin producing the same vending machine quality drinks it takes 6 quarters to buy.

If I were opening a shop: semi-automatics or old piston machines. Strictly old school. Take the extra $7 grand a super-auto would cost and actually spend it on TRAINING and EDUCATION.

Money much better spent.
If a super-auto can be made to work just as well as a semi-auto with good 'barista skills' (good dose, distribution, tamp, etc.) OUT OF THE BOX, then I would hope that the maintenance could be both performed by the machine and by the user. If I can make 10 espressos, one or two a day, by simply loading the machine with water and beans and putting my cup under the spout (and that's the extent of my efforts), and the result is great espresso, I could set time aside on day 10 to perform maintenance. Of course this may cost too much money...

Espresso Vision: the perfect cup of coffee starts with understanding your roast
Sponsored by Espresso Vision
wade1

#13: Post by wade1 »

A manual espresso machine is a BAD idea for use in an office. since everyone would need to be trained in the use of the machine. that is not something you want to do.

a super -- fed decent coffee and maintained properly will do a more than adequate job.

w

User avatar
Niko

#14: Post by Niko »

A tech who works on super-autos for a living recently told me that he hates how the beans get heated up while sitting idle in the machines for periods of time. Even in busy places, the machines get hotter and hotter so no matter how short the time the beans sit in there, the machines does a good job of baking them again...
Wow, I never thought of this one.

PhaetonFalling

#15: Post by PhaetonFalling »

Niko wrote:A tech who works on super-autos for a living recently told me that he hates how the beans get heated up while sitting idle in the machines for periods of time. Even in busy places, the machines get hotter and hotter so no matter how short the time the beans sit in there, the machines does a good job of baking them again...
I hear the remedy to this is to place the beans in a place where they won't heat up so much, ex, on the side of the coffee machine, or in a hopper over the top. You're really never going to fully insulate the beans, but it helps.

I'm sure these machines have boilers, if you insulated the boiler to largely decrease temp leakage, it'll probably help the beans some. But then again, the chances of an SA owner doing all that work, and then buying good beans... they're so low they're actually negligible... like the effects of gravitational attraction on experiments concerning molecules with other intermolecular forces at play (like Van Der Waals forces or hydrogen bonding...)