12 September 2007

My New Espresso Setup

My new espresso setup
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
Today I finally got to getting the new espresso machine all setup, in its final (for now?) resting place, and started to pull some shots. So far, average, but I'm just starting to learn to dial in the grinder, tamping, shot duration; and I'm not using a coffee I've liked that much (but it was free with the purchase, and I figured I might as well start out with something I didn't mind wasting a lot of shots of :) Anyway, all the pictures are here:


Initial impressions... First, I was pissed for a short while, because the machine didn't work out of the box! It didn't heat up properly. I called tech support, and they pointed me to instructions on how to reset the Hi Limit on the temperature. Did that to no avail. Then, as I simply looked around the insides of the machine, I saw a friggin wire was not connected! It was just off the terminal (used those nice plastic enclosed flat connectors), so it was real obvious where it went. Plugged that in, and voila, everything good now. Phew. Bad start though.

Getting past that, holy shite... The first thing you notice is the weight! Super heavy: 61 pounds! The other thing that simply rocks is the sheer amount of metal, the entire thing is stainless steel, or brushed steel (the internals of the drip tray are brushed metal, seems like everything else is stainless). It is incredibly beautiful at the same time as being totally kick ass industrial.

Next, nice big steam wand, dedicated hot water wand (very convenient for warming cups), burly lever action, heavy portafilter with E61 grouphead, and simple to use (mechanically - putting aside the art and science of pulling a perfect shot). On to the actual espresso...

So, first I ran a bunch of pre-ground Illy through that I had from buying the an Illy cup collection (No Water, No Coffee). That simply gave me a feel for pulling a shot, but the results sucked (minimal, crappy crema). After a half dozen of those, I fired up the new Macap MC4 doserless grinder. I filled it up with Malabar Gold, as that came for free with the machine, and while this may seem odd to some, it was a roast I hadn't liked much in the past. I figured I might as well waste a bunch of something I didn't care much for, while I started tuning the grinder, etc. Instantly I was at least getting crema, and better shot times (I was pulling doubles for all these, so approx 25 seconds).

After a couple, I started futzing with the grind setting, dialing it finer, to slow the shots down a bit, and thicken things up. I'm still playing, but I can at least pull something I find reasonable to drink. I will by no means claim to be pulling stellar shots at this point. It's at least thicker flavor and such than my super-auto, but it's definitely not honey yet.

I haven't even touched steaming yet, and probably won't for some time

Finally, I'm reading David Schomer's book (from what I understand, THE reference). I'm not too far in yet, but so far it's an easy, and seemingly good read, and I assume I'll learn a ton.

All in all, the journey has started. Interestingly, I recently found out that the "Best Coffee School" is right here in Eugene. That's the actual name of the place, and apparently people from all over the world come to get schooled here. They offer courses that range from basics, up to the longest course which trains you to run your own cafe and on the last/graduation day, the class runs their cafe.