Hall of Shame: ''What I did when I was a newbie...''

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
User avatar
Posts: 21934
Joined: 19 years ago

#1: Post by HB »

We have to start somewhere on our path to better espresso. I don't like to recall those dark days of early learning, but an e-mail exchange on a related topic prompted me to share. So here goes...
  • It is true that I once drank illy pre-ground coffee prepared in an Krups steam toy and thought it was pretty sophisticated.
What's your confession? No need to be too specific, and anyway, it's only between friends, right?
Dan Kehn

User avatar
Posts: 2695
Joined: 19 years ago

#2: Post by malachi »

In my first barista job, I worked almost 2 months before I found out that I could adjust the grind...
What's in the cup is what matters.

User avatar
Compass Coffee
Posts: 2844
Joined: 19 years ago

#3: Post by Compass Coffee »

Guess mine is similar to Dan's. Once thought our Krup's Caffe Presso with combined drip and steam toy was quite the sophisticated unit. Even graduated from a whirly chop to an equally sophisticated $25 burr grinder when we got the Caffe Presso. Made many what I thought was espresso but in reality never learned to used it properly. Ground too fine and tamped yielding quite the bitter cups! Now that I don't use it know I should have ground coarser and not tamped. :oops: Also got our first French Press about the same time, for those truly exotic brewing occasions. Though in my defense I've been buying fresh roast whole bean since 1984! Happy to say the Presso's been sitting on a shelf in the garage for 5 years. The left side replaced by vac and the right side Miss Silvia. And 4 burr grinders later Rocky but that's another expensive story! Oh, still have that first Bodum 32oz Press Pot, with upgraded Swissgold plunger and now have 7 French Presses total. Four 12oz for "cheater" cuppings and/or individual press pot brewing, one for Debi at work, one for travel and a couple others. But Press 'taint the exotic entertaining brewing device anymore. That would be Gold Royal Balance Brewer. 8)
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)

Posts: 38
Joined: 18 years ago

#4: Post by mikep »

Back before I had experienced really good espresso I walked past Intelligentsia every day on my way to work. I avoided going in to check it out, instead, I would opt for a "doppio con panna" at Starbucks.

Posts: 61
Joined: 18 years ago

#5: Post by j7on »

Instant espresso - just add water... :x

Abe Carmeli
Team HB
Posts: 845
Joined: 19 years ago

#6: Post by Abe Carmeli »

I get shivers down my spine when I think of some of the things I did as a newbie. But perhaps the one that tops them all is a fan letter I sent Dan a couple of years ago. It was all about his "water dance" method to control brew temperature on a H/X machine.

There are letters in which you thank someone for improving your espresso by sharing his experience, and they are all good and wonderful. But then, there is a letter in which you hail the man as the greatest human who ever walked the earth just because his water can dance. It was a teenage girl's fan letter to Orlando Bloom, with all the flowery accolades worthy of Chris Tacy's shot descriptions.

I've been taunting Dan ever since, as a pitiful attempt to regain some of my dignity. But all my efforts are in vain. What was said cannot be unsaid, and those words will forever live in infamy. I have it on good authority that he has framed that email and hung it at a prominent place in his living room.
Abe Carmeli

Posts: 112
Joined: 19 years ago

#7: Post by bobroseman »

I had a Krups for 15 years. Coupled with Starbucks beans and a whirly blade grinder, I thought I was at the top of the coffee heap. I would still be using it, if it hadn't died, I hadn't called Chris Nachtrieb, he hadn't told me about Dan and the SCAA hadn't been in Atlanta.


User avatar
Team HB
Posts: 13805
Joined: 19 years ago

#8: Post by another_jim »

I'd been using cheap espresso machines and a blade grinder for a long time to make cappas. My first shame bit is that everyone, including me, thought I was great at this, since my foam came out a lot more shaving cream like than even the newly opened Starbucks in 92 Chicago, so it would pile up just like the illustration on the boxes of cheap espresso machines.

The second one is that I never much liked the straight espresso, it wasn't as good as Italy or even as Starbucks. One day in 99, some old Italian guy running a red sauce place told me the grand secret: real espresso was made from steam, not water, and nobody in the US brewed it hot enough. So from then on I pulled shots with the machine in steam mode. I didn't think it improved matters and stuck to cappas, but I figured I was finally doing it right.

The upside is that since I now knew the secret, but still didn't like the shot, I decided my machine was obviously deficient, and it was time to do research on a new one. It was 2000, and the first coffee related websites were up (didn't know about the alt.coffee on the usenet back then), so I did some research, learnt some basic facts (from Bogie's FAQ, I think), got a grinder and a Solis, etc. All of a sudden, the espresso tasted kind of nice. Wow! I can make shots as good as Starbucks! I was very proud of myself.

I really didn't go beyond that for a year; till I stumbled onto Sweet Marias and alt.coffee.

The moral of this is that not all old Italian guys know the secret of espresso, even when there are chianti bottle candle holders on their tables.

Posts: 84
Joined: 19 years ago

#9: Post by framey »

I used to be a fan of monster cups. I actually had my own special cup at a local cafe that probably held 600mls (20 ounces). They would keep it behind the bar especially for me. I thought this was a great setup :(
Please forgive me.

Posts: 236
Joined: 19 years ago

#10: Post by k7qz »

malachi wrote:In my first barista job, I worked almost 2 months before I found out that I could adjust the grind...
Chris- many of the baristas in the shops locally still haven't "discovered" that one can actually adjust the grinder- I asked a sincere young barista a few weeks ago if he would mind adjusting his grinder for a ristretto shot. The reply was "Nope, the owner told us not to mess with the grinder"... :lol: :shock: :lol:

I learn something great from this site everyday, so I guess in a sense I'm still a "newbie"!

OK, confession time:

Several years ago my first machine was a Starbucks Barista. The daughter of one of my technologists worked at a big mermaid place and she offered me a great deal on one. A reasonable first unit despite its limitations.

One day my wife began to complain about me using her whirly blade grinder for coffee grinding as it gave the walnuts she chopped with it a "bad taste". So... I "ground" my beans on the chopping block using a Chef's knife, sort of like chopping onions! :oops: Hey before you all laugh, at least I used a Henkel's Wusthof knife! :lol:

No comparision to my current Mini E however-