Stuff about espresso that I wished I knew when I started out - Page 4

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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BaristaBoy E61
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#31: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

baldheadracing wrote:However, not everyone wants a hobby; some just want coffee.
Espresso IS a hobby, I just wished there was someone around to read me the riot act on just how expensive it's going to become and how much maintenance it will require. :mrgreen:
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

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Marshall
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#32: Post by Marshall replying to BaristaBoy E61 »

I thought this was the most important quote in the thread. You can make superb cups of drip coffee at a small fraction of the cost of an espresso setup and with a minimal learning curve. Too many people underestimate how much learning goes into making a good (not to mention "great") cup of espresso and give up after a few weeks or months.
Marshall
Los Angeles

LittleCoffee
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#33: Post by LittleCoffee »

As one of these who:
As an aside, originally I did not have categories over $2k, but added them as I realized how many people spend that kind of coin on their first espresso machine - and less than $1k on the grinder.
I have to respectfully disagree with the grinder opinion. But imagine writing an opinion post in a forum and having every one agree :D :D :D

I have been more than delighted with my choice of Izzo Duetto IV and Sette 270Wi for over a year now. I have no doubt buying a Monolith or something for more than the cost of my entire set-up will theoretically enable me to make better coffee. Heck even the Niche will probably grind better than my Sette. But over a year in, I'm at best a late beginner early intermediate in learning to control espresso. Having a dual boiler has helped me a lot - if I had to manage a single boiler with flushes and what not I would have had even more variables to control than the ones I'm struggling to control with my set-up.

My point is that I am nowhere near good enough where the grinder makes the most difference, and that's a year in. (maybe I'm a slow learner!) and for people like me a good quality dual boiler takes so much variability out it's a better way to spend the money, while a dose-direct-to-PF Sette has such a massive impact on workflow than single dosing a Niche that it makes that combination of enjoyability and frustration of making the perfect espresso that much more enjoyable so you stay for the journey. Maybe one day the grinder will become my limiting factor, but I still feel I'm a long way off that.

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russel
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#34: Post by russel »

LittleCoffee wrote:My point is that I am nowhere near good enough where the grinder makes the most difference, and that's a year in. (maybe I'm a slow learner!) and for people like me a good quality dual boiler takes so much variability out it's a better way to spend the money, while a dose-direct-to-PF Sette has such a massive impact on workflow than single dosing a Niche that it makes that combination of enjoyability and frustration of making the perfect espresso that much more enjoyable so you stay for the journey. Maybe one day the grinder will become my limiting factor, but I still feel I'm a long way off that.
I really like this. LittleCoffee is using an equipment combination that I would never favor or buy or recommend (until now), but that's because I have my own priorities and experiences that aren't his. One thing that get lost quickly in equipment discussions is that you (the barista) are ultimately the one responsible for making and tasting the coffee. The best tools are the ones that help you make your best coffee...if that means a double boiler e61 and a hopper-fed-dose-to-portafilter-conical-burr-grinder, then I should support that choice 100% as the right one for you. When I forget to take my toxic-purist-hat off I'm usually super critical of the notion of "forgiving" as feature of equipment, but I think I've been wrong. Maybe "forgiving" is really impactful workflow/ergonomic feature, one that can make the difference between enjoying the pleasures of coffee and getting miring in the difficulty of espresso extraction. Buy-once-cry-once doesn't necessarily work if you don't end up enjoying and embracing the hobby (I have trouble calling coffee a "hobby", but I think it's appropriate right here).

So +1 to this post and to LittleCoffee, I'm a better coffee-person for it!
russel at anacidicandbitterbeverage dot com

Mat-O-Matic
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#35: Post by Mat-O-Matic »

LittleCoffee wrote:I have to respectfully disagree with the grinder opinion. But imagine writing an opinion post in a forum and having every one agree
So many opinions! :D

Here's what I wish I knew back when: There is always Somewhere Up to go, but that doesn't mean you need to go there now. Though you can if you want to. 8)

Inherent in LittleCoffee's totally reasonable position is the question of user's preference for workflow. Hinted at when questioning whether one wants to Tinker or to simply Get-Me-Some-Coffee. Sette vs Niche, for example, is hopper vs single dosing, categories with varying effects on quality depending on volume and barista.

Absent is the recognition of medium positions. I'm one who has had to be clever to improve the quality of my gear over decades. Each step includes new learning curves, OR each time I plateau with my current gear I start exploring new learning, which may or may not also lead to Ye Olde Upgradeitis. Upgradeitis, importantly, can also stem from a desire to explore something new (pump vs lever, dark vs light) and is not always about chasing the nth degree.

To the point of 'not being good enough' for a grinder to present a limiting factor: Note that a Sette is what some would consider a minimum-viable grinder and Monoliths are what we all must now call *'Endgame' machines. These are two extreme poles. So, a mid-range grinder like anything by a reliable manufacturer retailing new for between $800-1,500 could open up new discoveries of what is possible, thereby revealing that the grinder was, in fact, a limiting factor.

On the other hand: With a solid DB like the Duetto, a barista could improve their coffee by concentrating on the coffee itself (freshness, bean quality, ratios, and type of coffee suiting their tastes or trying things unfamiliar), practicing more consistent (or new to them) prep techniques, exploring tweaks to machine use (temps, pre-infusion schemes, baskets, doses, pressure mods), etc. Therefore, depending on preferences on workflow, bean choice, volume, and taste, it is entirely possible that the Sette is everything one needs.

* Endgame reveals the need to assume that something is a final destination, a mark that will not be meaningfully surpassed. Life has taught me these are silly ideas. If I had the bread, I'd certainly get one or more of these wonderful machines, but I wouldn't think of them in absolute terms.
LMWDP #716: Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.

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baldheadracing (original poster)
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#36: Post by baldheadracing (original poster) »

LittleCoffee wrote:I have to respectfully disagree with the grinder opinion. But imagine writing an opinion post in a forum and having every one agree :D
I realize that discussing my equipment recommendations is fun to debate, but the main point that I wanted to make was about the order. The impetus for the post was a YouTube video that I saw where the author had a top-end plumbed-in machine, a pretty good grinder, but was making disparaging comments that didn't make sense to me until later in the video they showed their plumb-in setup that had no water treatment in an area with known-awful water, and made a coffee using rancid-looking supermarket-brand beans.

For the equipment opinions, I think that there are so many factors that there are no right or wrong answers, but people keep asking. I personally disagree with my equipment recommendations - for example, I'll always go for a new spring lever or a vintage lever machine :mrgreen:.
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

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drgary
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#37: Post by drgary »

BaristaBoy E61 wrote:Espresso IS a hobby, I just wished there was someone around to read me the riot act on just how expensive it's going to become and how much maintenance it will require. :mrgreen:
Cost was a barrier to me too as I was getting up to speed. I had a sense of what coffee I liked, but that evolves over time. So to address Craig's point of what to attend to after that, the next thing I needed was gear to consistently brew espresso. My first serious espresso machine was an Isomac Amica single boiler dual use machine. I paired that with a Lelit PL053 grinder and had a PID installed and suddenly I was consistently pulling good shots. But the hobby can surprise you as you immerse in it. My approach is rolling up my sleeves and seeing where that takes me next.

One of the things I learned early was that I could find very good used gear at reasonable prices, including that Amica. The difference between that and buying new was the surprise of finding something unexpected worth servicing or restoring.

If you enjoy tinkering and learning restoration skills, there are many knowledgeable Home-Barista members to help you. If you've got time for the hobby, very good gear gets much less expensive. I was hooked when I found a working La Pavoni Europiccola for $50 and found it easier to use than my e61 box. To avoid taking this conversation off track, I've started a new topic linked below that focuses on the hunt for vintage gear that turned into the collecting side of the hobby. (These days the hobby has shifted again into coffee roasting.)

Finding and restoring vintage machines
Gary
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What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

mathof
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#38: Post by mathof »

Most of what I know now wasn't available (as equipment, beans or knowledge) in 1999 when I started pulling espresso at home, with a new (pre-millennium) LP Europiccola. Assuming modern espresso development continues at the breakneck speed it has been travelling over the last couple of decades, I expect that today's knowledge (well summarised by the OP) will seem as quaint in 20 years as the advice to learn-tamping pressure by pushing down on your bathroom scale seems today.