Note: These instructions are are split off from my earlier thread on questions for Christopher Cara Any Questions to Ask Chris Cara?
so you can have a standalone copy. Later add: My 11/27 post on that thread gives additional context to this lesson.
(This applies to Europiccola, Professional and Stradivari models.)Preparation
Fill the machine to at least ¼ inch from the bottom and top of the sight glass. Make sure the steam valve is closed before turning it on or you risk damaging expensive parts. Heating time may be as little as four minutes if you preheat some water only in a microwave and immerse the portafilter in that afterward. This is only good where the first pull is for an espresso. It also saves water in the tank compared to pulling water through an empty portafilter and basket to preheat. As the machine heats up, the machine will hiss at the large nut to the right of the steam valve. Before you pull the first shot, briefly open the steam valve to eliminate false pressure Can someone please explain false pressure?
Tuning the fineness of the grind allows you to hit the sweet spot between choking the machine and underextracting. You'll know you've got too coarse a grind if the pull goes too quickly with little resistance. If you've choked the machine with too fine a grind, don't bear down with a "gorilla pull" or Christopher warns, "You risk breaking the piston arm and your jaw"!
Grind and tamp are very different than what I use for pump machines. Grind is finer and tamp, if any, is very light, mostly to distribute the coffee and leave about 1/8 inch head room in a double basket. Christopher spooned about half the grounds into basket, which was inserted in the portafilter, tapped it once on the counter, then tamped lightly to level before spooning in the rest and again tamped and polished lightly. This reduced emphasis on precise tamping with greater emphasis on leveling may at least partly explain why Italian manufacturers ship espresso machines with crude, poorly fitted tampers. For practice at home, Christopher ground a small amount of coffee to take with me to dial in my grinder. Others without that opportunity might buy a small amount of Italian coffee, pre-ground for espresso.The Pull
Raise the lever for a count of five. Espresso may start to drip into your cup, or not. At this point, Christopher uses a two-handed pull, with one hand over the other, and only moderate exertion. If you want to do a one-handed pull, you can steady the machine with your other hand on the plastic tank cap. Unlike the orthodoxy of about 25 seconds, Christopher's pull only takes about 10 seconds. He says remember that using a lever machine with its different grind and other characteristics takes its own technique, so practice! There's a "feel" to this amount of resistance, and practicing it with someone experienced helped me gain confidence in the level of resistance to expect. And no, we didn't put the machine on a bathroom scale to measure pressure like you do with tamping! This is one area where I want to experiment with grind and tamp for a longer pull and try this with different coffees.
Along these lines I asked Christopher about the Fellini move Fellini does espresso
, where one recocks the lever for a second pull part way through the first. He says he prefers to pull all the way through and for a second pull would recock and do a full pull. But that's not his method. He does only one pull, which fills a demitasse cup about halfway. When I do two full pulls, the second is too watery for my taste using his beans and other blends. He suggested that I could experiment by interrupting the pull part-way and seeing how it tastes. I asked whether one should be concerned about how fast one lifts the lever for the second pull, whether this disturbs the puck. He said it probably wouldn't make any difference, which brings to mind another frequent comment of his, that "sometimes you won't get good results no matter what you do."
Many have noted the "portafilter sneeze" with these Pavonis where pressure can be suddenly released with a spray of hot grounds on removing the portafilter. He says you can safely remove it when the lever comes to rest in the fully down position. Otherwise, there's residual pressure. I press the lever down a few times at the bottom of its travel to release most of the pressure. I sometimes also let it rest until it settles. When I remove the portafilter, I press it slightly upward so if a small amount of pressure is released, it won't sneeze.