Espress Yourself: Food Network's Good Eats on Espresso

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.

#1: Post by IronBarista »

Anyone watch the Good Eats show last night? It was about espresso. The show was pretty good. There was nothing new for me but I think it was more for people on how to make decent espresso at home without making it an obsession. :P He explained the 4 Ms and what to look for in equipment and beans. He also showed some roasting. The only thing that looked bad was the milk foaming. It looked like dish soap. But of course, it'll still taste good.
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#2: Post by hgs »

i was wondering when alton would get to espresso.... replay at 11pm friday (EDT).


#3: Post by Mambeu »

IronBarista wrote:The only thing that looked bad was the milk foaming.
And that was way, way, way bad. :shock: He moved the pitcher around in a circle, got the thermometer up to 160*, and then started making bubbles. Blechh.

And he passed over a mini Gaggia to use a little toy machine with a narrow plastic portafilter!


#4: Post by dohfoh »

I also enjoyed the Good Eats "Espress Yourself" episode and am stumped trying to figure out exactly which machine he used. I recognized many of the other machines he showed, but can't seem to deduce the make of the one he settled on.

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#5: Post by cannonfodder »

The Tivo shows it 3 times, today (friday) at 11pmEST, saturday (7th) at 2am and friday the 13th at 7pm.
Dave Stephens


#6: Post by DigMe »

dohfoh wrote:I also enjoyed the Good Eats "Espress Yourself" episode and am stumped trying to figure out exactly which machine he used. I recognized many of the other machines he showed, but can't seem to deduce the make of the one he settled on.
I think maybe it was a Saeco. To me the pressurized PF that he used (which was different than the nonpressurized Gaggia PF that he weighed his espresso in! Nice bait and switch!) looks exactly like the Saeco PF that is used in the Rio Profi (which is the same as the Starbucks Barista Estro Profi).

It is strange that he passed over the Gaggia for the pressurized job but maybe that's what he normally uses and felt more comfortable with.


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#7: Post by HB »

Thanks for the heads up, I caught the first half last night. There were a few factual errors (e.g., "start timing 20-30 seconds after the first drops appear") and I cringed at his demonstration of panerello frothing, but overall I thought the topic was well presented in true Good Eats / Alton style. The segment on grinders and his explanation of the importance of consistency was very good. His apparent approval of the super-auto in the lineup was surprising.

Daryn Berlin met the producer of the show a few months back at a Counter Culture training session. He introduced us (via e-mail) and she asked me about equipment. Looking at the lineup of equipment on the show, she evidently did not take my recommendations seriously. Oh well, I did warn her that they weren't "mainstream" choices.

PS: Also see related topic, Binder-clip to hold the thermometer while steaming.
Dan Kehn

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#8: Post by TimEggers »

I chimed in on the discussion over on CG, and I simply feel that he did an okay job. He made some very excellent points (far more good ones than bad ones) and gave a good starting point into home espresso to those in his audience that may not have considered a home set-up.

Most of his audience probably isn't coffee purists/hobbyists like us, but his show did far more good than bad in my opinion. I enjoyed it and I think it can help bring more people into truly excellent home espresso. We all started someplace didn't we?

I'm very excited to see anyone spending a whole show on espresso especially someone with the recognition of Alton Brown. I think the show served to further the budding home barista specialty espresso movement far more than hinder it. I can only hope this spurs more shows to broaden a better education on home espresso.
Tim Eggers
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#9: Post by HB »

I agree Tim, the show was good and the "geek" factor was consistent with Alton's style (e.g., advocating that you weigh the grinds). Although I was disappointed to see no HX machines represented in his lineup, he did unequivocally support the importance of the grinder and the nature of steam toys (to paraphrase, he said "Don't waste your money.").

Below is an excerpt from the e-mail exchanges with the show's producer. Re-reading it, I think it could be the introduction of an espresso equipment FAQ.
HB wrote:Grinders:

A blade grinder is bad for regular coffee and unacceptable for espresso. Even WholeLatteLove, who sells them by the truckload, doesn't recommend them ("Blade grinders do an adequate job for drip coffee, but are not recommended for espresso or coffee drinks that require very specific grinds as they do not grind consistently." That said, I think you should get one simply to confirm this for yourself. To give you concrete suggestions, below are my recommendations from minimum to mid-high end:

$149 - Solis Maestro Plus - you'll burn out the burrs fast, but it's acceptable to some for espresso. I had one and upgraded. It's a great grinder for drip and French press (even bought one for my dad for Christmas - he loves it and raved about the difference between it and his trusty blade grinder).

$198 - Gaggia MDF - considered the best price performer along with the Cunill Tranquilo. It is stepped (adjustments are in increments), noisy, and suffers ergonomic issues. But it delivers the goods at a good price.

$285 - Rocky Rancilio ... ydoserless - a workhorse that will last many years.

$495 - Mazzer Mini ... silver.htm - the mid-high end gold standard.

A final comment on grinders. Many buyers (including myself many years ago) skimp on the grinder. That's a big mistake. A top-end grinder and a mid-level espresso machine can produce exceptional drinks given a skillful barista. A mediocre grinder coupled with the best barista in the world and the best espresso machine in the world cannot produce anything beyond "OK". In order of importance: Barista, Coffee, Grinder, Espresso Machine.

Espresso Machines:

A "steam powered" espresso machine doesn't make espresso. It makes something similar to a Moka Pot, i.e., a strong coffee. The pressure is too low (14 PSI versus 130 PSI of a pump machine) and the brew temperature is too high for most coffees. Again, my recommendation is to go ahead and buy one, if only to properly advise your viewers (e.g., Krups Alegro Don't make the mistake of referring to its coffee as "espresso" or any serious aficionado will dismiss your research. My recommendations from low to mid-high end:

The models below cannot brew and steam at the same time; you must wait while the boiler heats to make steam. Forget about serving crowds.

$199 - Gaggia Espresso - - no pressure regulation, temperature issues, but produces a drinkable cup.

$349 - Solis SL70 - - well reviewed by highly respected home enthusiasts. Was widely available in department stores, but I've noticed reports of stock shortages.

$495 - Rancilio Silvia - ... sso/silvia - gold standard high-entry machine. I personally think it's overpriced, but it's popularity is without bounds. It's one of those "must know" espresso machines, if only to share it as a reference point.

$775 - Quickmill Alexia - ... sso/alexia - an "espresso purist" machine. Forgiving of technique flaws, but slow to switch from brew to steam temperature. Very similar to the Isomac Amica.

The models can brew and steam at the same time. Serving a group of 6-8 people is no problem.

$799 - Expobar Pulser - - Expobar delivers a lot of value for the dollar. Their construction and component selection is borderline, but nobody can touch the price at this level of capability.

$1349 - La Valentina - ... achine.htm - Listed among Food & Wine's "best espresso machines". Their suggested lineup was as close to my opinion as I've seen in a non-pro write-up ( ... -to-coffee).
Dan Kehn

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#10: Post by cannonfodder »

I thought it was OK, a good introduction for those 'on the fence' home barista. I agree the grinder information was refreshing. I was glad to see the 'whirling blade of death' relegated to spice chopping. If you did not catch it, he was using a Gaggia MDF grinder. Alton started the grinder and continued talking about dosing, and the grinder continued to grind, and he talked more, and kept grinding. I had forgotten how slow the MDF was. In the perceived grind time of that double shot, I could have munched a half pound + through the Mini or Cimbali.

I also caught the portafilter switch. When Alton was talking about the dose and showed the portafilter I thought, A HA he is going to use a Gaggia! Nope. I snapped a photo of the machine he used, I have no idea what it was, but I recognized most of the ones he passed on.

I am surprised none of the lever heads has jumped in to refute his 'don't use a lever machine' proclamation. Although I think he was in part correct. Not everyone is capable of using a lever properly, especially a first time home user (awaiting flaming in the lever forum).

I thought his shot pulling was a bit lack luster. I think most of us would have dumped his shots in the sink. Did anyone else catch the French press is better than bad espresso? Another good suggestion.
Dave Stephens