Poor espresso has to wait for the milk

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
carrie kennedy

#1: Post by carrie kennedy »

what happens to the shot while its waiting for the milk to be steamed? my local barista gave me an earful when talking about upgrading my equipment. and let me get this straight, i can steam and brew if i go to a double boiler or a lever machine?
thanks
on the verge of a purchase
carrie

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HB
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#2: Post by HB »

carrie kennedy wrote:what happens to the shot while its waiting for the milk to be steamed?
I think it quietly sulks. :cry: Seriously, it cools and the crema dissipates. Less crema means less of the lovely brown "crown" of microfoam infused with coffee flavors.

Most people considering an espresso machine's ability to simultaneously steam / brew will focus on the added production capacity - banging out cappuccinos one after another is much easier if you don't have to wait for the boiler to transition from brew temperature and steam temperature over and over. However, as your local barista likely said, the quality of the drink suffers as the espresso waits. Owners of single boiler espresso machines like the Rancilio Silvia or Gaggia Classic machines will frequently debate steam-or-brew-first. Back in the day I owned one, I brewed first, primarily because it was more difficult to obtain correct brew temperature by cooling a recently steam-temperature boiler than warm a recently brew-temperature boiler to steam temperature.
carrie kennedy wrote:my local barista gave me an earful when talking about upgrading my equipment. and let me get this straight, i can steam and brew if i go to a double boiler or a lever machine?
Espresso Machines 101 describes the common boiler designs. Briefly, there are three basic types:
  • one boiler and two thermostats (brew / steam),
  • two boilers, one for brewing, one for steaming,
  • one steam boiler and a heat exchanger; fresh water is heated by the exchanger for brewing.
Lever machines are a fourth type not described in Espresso Machines 101, but they too have one boiler providing steam and brew water. Unlike most types of espresso machines, such lever machines rely on the group to act as a heat sink to draw down the temperature of the water exiting to boiler into brew range. Within three or four shots the group is warmed to above brew temperature and thus no longer functions as a heat sink; perfect for espresso a deux, terrible for serving crowds.

Also see Steaming & pulling sequencing? for a related discussion.
Dan Kehn

grong

#3: Post by grong »

I use a spring lever machine, a Ponte Vecchio Lusso. After my second pull of the lever, while the lever is rising and espresso is pouring, I steam the milk. The Lusso definitely steams milk beautifully.

IronBarista

#4: Post by IronBarista »

With my Silvia, I put the cappa cup with the shot in it on top of the machine and cover it with a linen towel. This prevents the heat from escaping from the top and the hot cup holder keeps it warm from below.
LMWDP #011

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Marshall

#5: Post by Marshall »

carrie kennedy wrote:what happens to the shot while its waiting for the milk to be steamed? my local barista gave me an earful when talking about upgrading my equipment. and let me get this straight, i can steam and brew if i go to a double broiler or a lever machine?
thanks
on the verge of a purchase
carrie
This is one of the few areas where a home barista shouldn't pay too much attention to a professional barista. Unlike him/her, you are not pushing one drink after another across the bar. Remember, you have to do a little housekeeping before you enjoy your drink (at least I do, otherwise I'll forget). I'm thinking of wiping the steam wand, washing the milk pitcher, knocking out the puck and rinsing the portafilter.

Then, there's the matter of what was left of your delicate crema in the first place after you poured hot milk over it. No, I don't think you'll notice any difference either way.
Marshall
Los Angeles

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TimEggers

#6: Post by TimEggers »

I'm in the brew first then steam crowd.

However since getting a little better with my technique (and most of all a better grinder) I find myself omitting the steamed milk...
Tim Eggers
http://www.facebook.com/TimEggers
LMWDP #202

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#7: Post by cannonfodder »

I have two levers and two HX machines. With the HX machines I steam while the shot pulls that way both are ready at the same time. With the manual levers, I pull the shot then steam the milk but both machines steam quickly. I don't think 20-30 seconds is too detrimental to the shot when adding milk. I just make sure I have everything prepped and ready before I start so I can go from one to the other with no delay.

This is one of those instances where you need to purchase a machine that fits your needs. If you make a lot of milk drinks, a large boiler HX or double boiler shines. A big well designed boiler is hard to beat, I still want an Elektra A3. That 6 liter boiler is just perfect in my book, but overkill if you only make one or two double shots a day with an occasional milk. At the same time, a lever pulls very unique shots but has its limitations when it comes to multiple shots and milk based drinks.
Dave Stephens

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timo888

#8: Post by timo888 »

carrie kennedy wrote:what happens to the shot while its waiting for the milk to be steamed? my local barista gave me an earful when talking about upgrading my equipment. and let me get this straight, i can steam and brew if i go to a double broiler or a lever machine?
thanks
on the verge of a purchase
carrie
With a manual lever machine, you could steam first then brew, or brew first then steam, but unless your parents twirled dishes on sticks on the Ed Sullivan show, you probably couldn't do both simultaneously--unless it were a spring-driven lever. Those you pull the lever to compress a spring, and then the spring takes over.

Regards
Timo

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#9: Post by cannonfodder »

Here are two shots, one from the Gaggia Achille lever, the other from my Faema two group. You can see how the crema and shot dies a slow death over time. My shots never sit more than 30 seconds and I am left with a dirty cup and a lingering memory.

Achille
«missing video»

Faema
«missing video»
Dave Stephens