Fiorenzato Bricoletta - A Pro's Perspective - Page 4

Behind the scenes of the site's upcoming equipment reviews.
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Postby NewEnglandCliff » Jun 29, 2005, 8:33 pm

malachi wrote:I started off by stripping the chrome out of one of the provided double portafilter. I hate the taste that a new, chromed portafilter imparts to espresso and for the last 3 years have assidiously stripped all chrome from new portafilters before pulling any shots.

Malachi, I thought exposed brass was more reactive than chrome, but if you're experiencing otherwise I'll have to try it. Do you get any off flavors from a well seasoned chrome portafilter? How are you stripping off the chrome?
Dolce Vita,


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Postby malachi » Jun 29, 2005, 9:17 pm

I know nothing about the science.
What I do know is that the shots from the chromed portafilters either taste incredibly bright and metallic (literally) or taste ashy and oily (when not clean).
If I use a stripped portafilter, I can just pull one shot to season and then pull all the shots I need (for up to about 45 minutes) with no taint or taste of contaminant. After about 45 minutes, I need to do a quick scrub with a green scrubby and rinse and then I pull a garbage shot and repeat.
At the end of each day I soak the portafilters in a Puro Caff solution and scrub them.

This is all coming from a commercial background - but it's been replicablein the home environment.

I strip the chrome with a green scrubby mounted on a disc on a drill.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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Postby malachi » Jun 30, 2005, 6:16 pm

Today has been a day of taste testing more than anything else.

Day started off with a couple of cappuccinos (Black Cat triple ristretto, 6oz cups). Really, really nice. The new tip is making texturing good milk really easy. I had to pull the tip and put a bunch more teflon tape in place to stop it from leaking, but otherwise it's a winner.

Then pulled a whole bunch of shots of the Big Truck. It's a bit past it's prime (should have used it up by yesterday at the latest really) but it held up well. I'm liking this espresso a lot. Very sweet and balanced and "zingy". This also is well suited to the triple basket (like the Black Cat) but seems best at a slightly higher brew temp.

Finally, threw in one of the coffees I've been really looking forward to -- the Ecco Caffe Brazil Cerrado 2004 Daterra Reserrve. I've had a few coffees from Ecco Caffe in the past that really blew my mind and I had high hopes for this coffee. I found that the coffee extracted best with the following parameters:
- 18 gram dose (LM ridged double basket),
- 200F brew temp,
- 26 second extraction
- 1.75oz double
This resulted in a shot with incredible dominant marzipan flavours with a fluffy, candy sugar sort of effect. It is super aromatic, with vanilla, orchid and almond notes. The finish has hints of bakers chocolate and a sort of cigar tobacco note. Very sweet, but shockingly balanced.
Incredible production of crema, gorgeous colour, nice mouthfeel.

What a nice coffee!!
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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Postby malachi » Jun 30, 2005, 6:28 pm

Some random notes about the testing to date...

- I have left the machine on for up to 26 hours at a time, and have also turned it on for a single drink and immediately turned it off afterwards. So far - leaving it on creates no problems and the quick cycle is fine as well.

- I've switched to a sort of "modified water-dance" method of temp surfing. I'm flushing immediately before pulling a shot (with the portafilter "loaded") and counting down temp from when the sputtering stops. For me, when I'm pulling shots and building drinks I find that a "one-mississippi" corresponds to 1F if I start with "mississippi" (i.e. to drop 3F I count "mississippi-one-mississippi-two-mississippi-three-mississippi").

- I'm cleaning the machine religiously. I scrub and rinse the inside of the portafilter every 45 minutes. I do the "portafilter wiggle" rinse and brush the gasket every 45 minutes. I do a clean water backflush about twice a day. I backflush with detergent every night. I soak the portafilters in a Puro Caff solution every night. I soak the steam wand with Rinza dairy cleaner every night.

And some random notes about what's coming up...

- I've got a bunch of new coffees to test, including more shots of the Ecco Caffe Daterra, three coffees from Doma, more coffees from Stumptown, some coffees from Vivace, other coffees from Barefoot and some surprise coffee from Hines.

- This weekend is going to include both some time training people to make espresso on the machine and (on the other end of the spectrum) some time spent on the machine with some "guest baristas" including Bronwen Serna and Kyle Larson.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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Postby malachi » Jul 04, 2005, 7:47 pm

A quick update.

I've had a whole bunch of visitors working with the machine and tasting shots from it.

- everyone thinks it's lovely.
- the two hole pro tip is (so far) the best option.
- the machine doesn't have the oomph to power a LM four hole 'acorn' tip.
- shot quality is really good, with far greater clarity and quality than other home machines tested.
- steaming is good, albeit it slow as compared to commercial machines.
- the drip tray doesn't stick far enough forward, resulting in a fair amount of mess when cleaning (there has been a lot of cleaning).
- certain espressos are exceptionally good on the machine.
- but even 'difficult' espressos work with this one (had some really fantastic shots of Vivace Vita this morning).
- the stock portafilter isn't a favorite of anyone. the LM portafilter is a very valuable upgrade.
- start-up time is a bit slow. leaving the machine on all the time is a better option.
- there is some noticable fluctuation in boiler pressure. we experimented with removal of the flojet system as well as insertion of a static tank. neither had a positive effect. my guess is that it's a result of the use of a small electronic pressurestat. i'm thinking of sticking a commercial Sirai pressurestat in its place and seeing what happens. the fluctuation is not rapid and doesn't seem to really effect shot quality as long as you work around the swing.
- Bronwen pulled off one of the best cappuccinos I've ever had. a lovely shot of Doma Vito's blend and absolutely perfect milk.
- to date, this is the best home machine I've worked with and perhaps the best heat exchanger machine as well.
- temp surfing on this machine is really quite easy. without all the noise and fluctuation of the vibe pump it's really easy to track the temp drop and time off it.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin


Postby ishcoco » Jul 06, 2005, 7:58 pm

malachi wrote:OK

- to date, this is the best home machine I've worked with and perhaps the best heat exchanger machine as well.

Does this include LaValentina? Andreja? Wega? Have you worked on the Spaziale S1 (double boiler, I know, but close in cost)? I have narrowed my search down to one of these guys, and would love some input. I ideally want a direct plumb machine.

I need to upgrade an old thermoblock machine (yeah, I know...), and know that if I buy a Silvia or even an Expobar, I am gonna get upgraditis. I already have a Mazzer Mini, and am looking for a machine. Wega? Bricoletta? Andreja? La Valentina?

Any thoughts are much appreciated.


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Postby malachi » Jul 06, 2005, 9:21 pm

Here is the (total and complete to date) list of nits I have to pick with the Bricoletta:
- drip tray doesn't stick out far enough, thus messy to clean.
- stock steam wand tip is inferior to the gold pro 2 hole.
- stock portafilter is inferior to the La Marzocco one.

In addition, here are the thing I would consider doing were I to own one:
- buy a new tip,
- buy a LM portafilter,
- replace the pressurestat with a commercial Sirai pressurestat or a PID unit,
- maybe stick a thermoprobe into the group with a small brew temp display cut into the front of the case,
- ummm... maybe retrofit it so that the line-pressure pre-infusion is functional
- uhhhh.... I suppose I could swap out the thermosyphon plumbing to make it unequal diameter...

In other words... there is very little that is actually "wrong" with this machine. It is unlikely that it's going to be the gating item for any barista. And if it became the gating item, the list of "wish list" fixes above would fix that.

Honestly... I'm starting to get into HX machines. I like that I'm able to futz around with brew temp without having to change the brew temp setting, wait for it to stabilize, etc.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin


Postby Romano » Jul 07, 2005, 10:12 am

I am very grateful for your specific and detailed review. I have owned a Bricoletta for about 6 months and could attest to the beauty and the difference between my former Silvia and this machine. What a pleasure to not have to worry about emptying the drip :lol: tray and filling the water tank. I have also noticed that my "single origin" shots are more consistent than my blends. Do you think that a rimless portafilter basket would "improve" the shots. Again thank you.


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Postby malachi » Jul 13, 2005, 6:45 pm

By "rimless" basket do you mean a so-called ridgeless basket? If so... then no. If you want to experiment with basket changes I would suggest getting a La Marzocco portafilter and stock ridged double basket. I've found the best shots from that combo.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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Postby malachi » Jul 13, 2005, 7:07 pm

It's been a busy couple of weeks.
I've burned through a whole lot of coffee.
To say the least!


The results have been incredibly illuminating. I'm learning a ton about the Bricoletta, about heat exchanger machines, about coffee - and about the relationships between all the above. I've had some amazing espresso. I've had a couple of the best cappuccinos of my life. I've consumed a ton of coffee.

Where do I start?
I guess that I should talk about the feedback from other baristas. All the usual suspects have stopped by (Bronwen, Stephen, Kyle et al) and I've had a few new guests, including a visit from Duane. The concensus opinion is that the Bricoletta is a really nice machine. People have some quibbles with it (the lack of range of articulation on the hot water spout, the fact that the drip tray doesn't stick far enough forward, the fact that it's an HX machine and that you have to temp surf it) but no-one has felt that the coffee has been less than excellent from the machine. People find it usable and intuitive.

I spent a long time trying to increase the experience of "clarity" that I talk about periodically. Today I may have had a breakthrough.

I've learned to be quite accurate with my brew temp management. In addition (thanks to Dan et al) I've become quite good at managing the temp profile during extraction. This has taken a lot of work and practice. But even so, the clarity wasn't what I wanted. Better... yes. But not there.

I was lazy in the beginning. I checked brew pressure on the machine and it was higher than I like (10.25BAR). But I didn't really want to bother with it. Today I decided to suck it up and dial the brew pressure in to where I like it (right between 9BAR and 9.25BAR). I figured it would be no big deal. I mean, it's a Procon rotary pump and believe me, I've dialed brew pressure in on Procon pumps a few times (grin). So I popped off the top of the machine and discovered (much to my dismay) that the pump was installed in such a way that I did not have access to the adjustment "screw" on the pump.

(view of pump from above with top of machine removed)

I could not figure out how to get at the damn thing!!

Thanks to some quick action from Jim at 1st-Line and from the mighty Dan, I was given some quick instructions for how to remove the casing on the Bricoletta. This turns out to be a really easy task. All you need are a flathead screwdriver and the correct size allen wrench (you'll need one of the L shaped ones in order to fit). It's useful to also have a needle-nose pliers in order to grasp the little allen bolts. First you undo the brass screw on the back of the machine. Then you remove the two allen bolts that hold the top front of the casing to the frame. The whole casing then lifts up from its aligning slots and off.

(view of pump from left side of machine with casing removed)

At this point, adjusting the pressure was quick and easy.
While I was at it, however, I decided to take a couple of additional shots of the guts of the machine (I figured someone out there would be excited by this stuff). To be honest - all of this made me miss the days when I could just call up Ken and have him take care of the mechanical details. It's not that I don't understand this stuff, it's just that it's not fun for me.

(guts of machine from left side with casing removed)

(guts of machine from right side with casing removed)

A quick re-assembly (my piece of advice - be careful with those allen bolts or they will drop somewhere in the machine that is both remote, hard to access and incredibly hot and/or carries live current) and we're back on the road.

And here was the breakthrough.
The first couple shots were not right at all. My temp surf timing was suddenly slightly off. Damn those dependent variables!! heh.
Then I got it dialed in and pulled a shot of the Hairbender that was all I wanted it to be. Dense, rich, heavy in chocolate but with all the fruit and acidity desirable. Layered and complex but with great definition of flavour.
And Hmmm...

After some more work I had an idea. I did a quick re-plumb to get rid of the FloJet and the water filtration unit. Clarity gone. I then hooked up the FloJet without the water filtration unity. Ah Hah!!! Clarity still gone!! Excited now, I replumbed with no FloJet and no filtration and logged brew pressure. Flutter!! Same with the FloJet and no filtration!! And then with the FloJet and the filtration unit... No Flutter!!!! And clarity!!!

So... new theory (just waiting for Jim or Barry or someone to disprove it) is that it's the combination of brew temp profile and consistent brew pressure profile that creates this clarity.

Very Cool!
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin