Ponte Vecchio Lusso
Making Large Cappuccinos
Knowing that some potential buyers might be put off by its small-volume espressos, this section documents my routine for building a large(r) cappuccino booming with chocolaty coffee flavor. My preference for cappuccinos with the Lusso is one 12 gram double pull espresso served with 3-4 ounces of milk in a smaller tulip-shaped cappuccino cup (e.g., the ACF cups with capacity of 5 ounces). Since working with the Lusso on this routine, I'm enjoying its delicious chocolaty quad ristretto with 3-4 ounces of milk, which I've dubbed the Workday Eye Opener. Preparation time from start to finish is 3 minutes or less, perfect for the morning rush.
The water displacement of some home lever espresso machines is small; the Lusso's is in fact very small, 16 milliliters per stroke by my measurements (1). Combining preinfusion volume and multiple pulls, the Lusso produces a beverage with a brewing ratio commensurate with a double ristretto. The "big gulp" crowd may initially be disappointed by the volume of its diminutive cup, but I and other Smackdown participants did not see it as a serious concern:
My opinion of the Lusso right now is that one shouldn't get too hung up on the double pull thing. It's only a big deal if you absolutely have to have big shot volumes. If, on the other hand you're flexible and observant, you can get some pretty killer coffee for your 1100 bucks. The Lusso is very tolerant of coffee. Brightness and distinct flavors are diminished compared to my benchmark machinery. Whether or not that is your cup of coffee is up to you.
To prepare the Eye Opener in record time, get two double baskets and remove the basket retention spring from the portafilter so you can insert/drop out the basket easily. If you prefer to work with the basket locked into the portafilter and a knockbox, no problem, it just adds a little to the overall preparation time and also means the crema from the first espresso sits a little longer. I use a 12 ounce pitcher filled with milk to the bottom of the spout (around 4-5 ounces); you can steam a bit more milk to make a latte (7-8 ounces). With these caveats out of the way, time to get moving!
- Fill the pitcher with milk and set it to the left of the machine.
- Place an extra pitcher or coffee cup under the grouphead to catch the warmup flush.
- Put the cappuccino cup on the right hand side of the driptray, directly beneath the water tap.
Warmup and purge
- Draw water from the tap into the cup to warm it; half full suffices.
- Draw water from the group into the catch pitcher for four seconds to warm the group. This is only necessary if the machine has been idle for a long time. If you've pulled a shot within the last 10 minutes, spritz flush to clear the screen.
- Slide the catch pitcher to the left under the steam wand. Open the steam wand valve briefly to purge condensation.
Dose and tamp
- Dose both baskets to the top, level cut with a straight edge or simple finger sweep; there should be 12 grams of coffee in each basket.
- Tamp both baskets. Wipe loose grounds from the rim of the basket.
- Dump the water in the cup into the catch pitcher and place the cup under the grouphead.
- Remove the portafilter, gently insert one of the baskets.
- Loosely lock in the portafilter with your left hand, place your right hand on the lever. Slowly push the lever down and at the halfway point, tighten the portafilter. Waiting until the lever is partially cocked avoids the piston sucking air through the puck, potentially breaking its adhesion with the basket (2).
- Hold the lever at the bottom of its stroke for 3 seconds. Gently release the lever.
- Once the lever is near the end of its stroke, push it down gently a second time. Reminder: Go easy on the lever movement, air is being drawn back through the puck into the brew chamber and fractures the puck. Gentle movement = less fracturing = less channeling on the second half of the extraction.
- Be ready to slide the catch pitcher and the cup to the right, thereby letting the blond, weak portion of the extraction fall into the catch pitcher. Depending on the coffee, grind setting, and technique, the transition from chestnut brown to watery blond will occur during the last half to last quarter of the second stroke.
- While the last of the effluent falls into the catch pitcher, begin steaming the milk. If timed correctly, the boiler's heating element will be cycling and the boiler pressure will peak as you begin.
- Turn off steam. Give the pitcher a few quick thunks and polishing swirls, then set the pitcher on the cup warming tray. Purge some steam to clear the wand tip, and then wipe the wand with a damp towel.
- Push the lever just short of half way. This will introduce air into the brew chamber and relieve the water pressure, avoiding the dreaded "portafilter sneeze." Confirm the pitcher is underneath the portafilter to catch the last dribbles and unlock it (3). There will be a small puddle of water on top of the puck; turn the portafilter over the bus pan / knockbox to drop the basket.
- If the steamed milk is starting to separate (looks like a cottonball in the middle when jostled), give the pitcher a couple quick swirls before continuing to the second shot.
- Slide the catch pitcher to the left and the cup under the grouphead.
- Insert the second basket into the portafilter. Lock in the portafilter as before, hold the lever at the bottom of its stroke for 3 seconds, push down for a second stroke, etc. Be ready to slide the catch pitcher under the grouphead if the stream becomes watery and blond.
- Once you've pushed down the lever for the second time, start thunking and swirling the steamed milk again. Its surface should be a mirror chrome finish with no visible bubbles. Hint: If some bubbles do sneak in, pour off the top layer with a quick tilt and continue thunking and swirling.
- To emphasize the coffee flavor, try pouring the milk with the pitcher held 4-6 inches above the cup, straight into the center. The microfoam should plunge under the crema surface and lift it up from the bottom, producing a caramel-colored layer of milk/crema with a white bullseye.
- Before dashing out the door, don't forget to clean up. Wait a few minutes to unlock the portafilter or use the quick pressure release trick mentioned above. Hold the catch pitcher tightly against the bottom of the grouphead and pull down the lever to flush the screen. To start with fresh water the next day, turn off the machine and then drain the boiler using the water tap (4).
Notes and reminders referenced above
(1) Measured with a Scace
thermofilter by filling the brew chamber completely and capturing the
flow from the start to end of the stroke.
(2) Note the angle of the lever at which water is allowed into the brew chamber. The water entry port is located above the midway point of the lever stroke. Be certain the portafilter is engaged in the grouphead channel and just shy of tight before pushing the lever down, stopping at the halfway point. Note: If operated incorrectly, your hand could be sprayed with very hot water and steam. Always move slowly and deliberately; most importantly, pay attention!
(3) Note the angle of the lever at which water is allowed into the brew chamber. The water entry port is located above the midway point of the lever stroke. To avoid a "portafilter sneeze" of hot water, steam, and wet coffee grounds, do not unlock the portafilter unless you have waited several minutes for the brew chamber to naturally depressurize or use the quick pressure release technique described above. Note: If operated incorrectly, your hand could be sprayed with very hot water and steam. Always move slowly and deliberately; most importantly, pay attention!
(4) DISCLAIMER: The instructions above have been described for informational purposes only because espresso hobbyists have expressed an interest in it. Espresso machines contain controls and conduits for electricity, very hot water, steam and high water pressure. Failure to follow the prescribed precautions and/or exercise good judgment could result in serious injury. The author accepts no responsibility for any injuries resulting from any attempt to follow these instructions.