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Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Help me change...  
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Peevish
Senior Member


Joined: 9 Jun 2012
Posts: 4
Location: York, PA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Bar32
Grinder: Hario Mini Mill
Drip: Aeropress
Roaster: Popcorn Pumper :P
Posted Sat Jun 9, 2012, 9:14pm
Subject: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

I am currently struggling with my espresso setup, and I'm looking for some input on how to best upgrade - I'm really not getting decent results on espressos, and certainly not consistent ones. I have between 500-700 budget, though could push to 800 if necessary, but would rather not. I know that my machine is the definition of entry level, and that is the area I believe I need to concentrate my budget on. However, I know the importance of grind, so I also wanted people's opinion on whether the mini-mill is acceptable to keep for now - I'm thinking the machine is in more need of upgrading, and given my budget, I can't realistically upgrade both things. And I know that spending more will get me a better setup, but my budget is fixed.

In terms of my use, I will be using it primarily for espresso, maybe 2 a day, with the option of doing an occasional latte (max 1 a day) - I would not be making more than 2 drinks (ie espresso for me and latte for the lady) at a time. I'm fairly confident my coffee is fine, as I roast my own green beans and grind to order

My current setup is:
Delonghi Bar32 (with portafilter mod)
Hario Mini-Mill grinder
Home roasted coffee

I would add that the idea of a PID appeals to me if I can in the price range (Ascaso/Le'lit I guess are the only ones in my price range though) - I like the idea of knowing I have a good temperature so I can concentrate on the other variables in shot-making. I have been tweaking and changing with my current setup and havent really got close to a great shot - in fact the best I have achieved I would class as OK, with the majority being pretty disappointing.
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
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frcn
Senior Member
frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,287
Location: Northern California
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vibiemme Domobar Double
Grinder: Mazzer Kony, Baratza...
Vac Pot: Hario, 2 Cory pots, 1 Cory...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Bunn A10 mod...
Roaster: computer controlled Hottop,...
Posted Sat Jun 9, 2012, 9:54pm
Subject: Re: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

A very good place to start is.. well, to stop. Hold on for now. Try some other coffees from known, quality roasters. Unless you skills with the popper are exceptional or it is highly modified and you are well skilled in the roasting arts, it s worth a moment to see if, not meaning to insult, better coffee (or at least, different coffee) could change your mind about the equipment. If for no other reason than it is fun as well as the possibility of being educational. You can always spend money later, but you might find that if your coffee can be bested that way, you could get a less expensive machine, or even keep that one and invest in a better roasting appliance.

 
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www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
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russel
Senior Member
russel
Joined: 12 Mar 2010
Posts: 423
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: 73' Cremina, '74 Club,...
Grinder: Super Caimanos x2, Forte BG,...
Drip: V60, Kalita Wave, Clever,...
Posted Sat Jun 9, 2012, 9:57pm
Subject: Re: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

Given that you are using a hand grinder already, I would take $250 and buy a Pharos from Orphan Espresso.  You could otherwise pick up a used commercial flat burr from the BST forum for about $250.  That would leave $250 to 550 for a new machine.  You can certainly get a respectable SBDU new for that much.  If you're feeling adventurous you could try picking up a used HX for $400 and up.  You could also go the super low tech route and get a vintage lever, $450 should cover than handily.  

My preferences would be:

Pharos + Lever
Used 64mm + Used HX

Hand grinding is a natural companion to a lever machine.  Once you go to a big HX, a nice big commercial grinder seems appropriate to keep things going at a quick pace.
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TheSunInsideYou
Senior Member
TheSunInsideYou
Joined: 16 Feb 2012
Posts: 206
Location: NJ and NYC
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Breville BES900XL
Grinder: Laranzato HC-600, OE LIDO,...
Vac Pot: Yama 3
Drip: Hario V60, Chemex
Posted Sat Jun 9, 2012, 11:04pm
Subject: Re: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

russel Said:

Given that you are using a hand grinder already, I would take $250 and buy a Pharos from Orphan Espresso.

Posted June 9, 2012 link

+1 for the Pharos. At the price point, and since you clearly don't mind hand grinding, it really doesn't seem to have an equal.

Your price range is difficult, but not impossible. Quality coffee should be your first concern. Given that you're home roasting, you could already have that covered (though I agree that you should use some fresh coffee from reputable roasters as a starting point if you haven't already). So the next step would be the grinder. In your price range, the Pharos seems the obvious choice, but you could conceivably get a quality commercial burr for around the same.

Good luck!

-Dave-
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Peevish
Senior Member


Joined: 9 Jun 2012
Posts: 4
Location: York, PA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Bar32
Grinder: Hario Mini Mill
Drip: Aeropress
Roaster: Popcorn Pumper :P
Posted Sun Jun 10, 2012, 4:35am
Subject: Re: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

Thanks for the sound advice. I should have said, I am fairly ok with the coffee - I have tried a range of coffee from 'proper' roasting companies and have still seen the same results. Also the coffee I make is good when I use other methods (ie aeropress, french press etc.) its just the espresso side of it that comes out flat, and not close to what I have had at espresso bars etc. (and before someone says it, I know I am not going to get supershots at the budget I have, but surely an acceptable shot is not unrealistic).

It seems that the feeling so far is that I should be able to make good espresso with a better grinder and keep the Bar32, right? I think if I am going to upgrade that side, I would rather not go for a hand-mill tbh, and opt for a good electric grinder that will serve me with my current machine, and also see me through any future upgrade on that side. The only reason I use a hand-mill was price to quality on a next to no budget. I would definitely like the convenience of not having to crank, especially in the mornings, and especially if I am going to throw down significantly more than the 30 bucks the hario cost :P Call me lazy.
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chasemonster
Senior Member
chasemonster
Joined: 3 Jun 2010
Posts: 364
Location: Chicago
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Rancilio Audrey
Grinder: Hario Mini Mill
Drip: V60
Posted Sun Jun 10, 2012, 11:21am
Subject: Re: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

Your Hario Mini Mill grinder is the least of your problems. I know, because I have been using one of those grinders every day for over 2 years now.
And I get sweet, syrupy, complex ristretto shots every morning using the Hario Mini Mill and my Rancilio Audrey espresso machine.
Before that, I was using the Hario Mini Mill with a mypressi Twist and getting almost equally spectacular results.
If your espresso machine is not putting out 9 Bar brew pressure and 200 degree water temperature then that is most of your problem.
You need to find a machine that can duplicate those parameters.

Here's a video of one of my ristretto shots from today using the Hario Mini Mill and my Rancilio Audrey: http://youtu.be/C3bdmh_4-Eg
This is with 16 grams of Metropolis Redline.
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fox2000
Senior Member
fox2000
Joined: 18 May 2012
Posts: 46
Location: WA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Isomac Millenium I
Grinder: Mazzer S.J. Auto & MDX
Posted Sun Jun 10, 2012, 4:32pm
Subject: Re: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

I am new to CG and still fairly new to espresso. That said I was in a similar position a couple months ago I was using a Delonghi bar 14 modified with an unpressurized PF and a hand mill and could only get OK shots regardless of which beans I used. Now after my upgrading adventure I realized my Delonghi could not produce high enough temps to produce decent espresso. After a ton of research I went with a used Isomac Millenium off of CL for $450 and couldn't be happier. Im blown away at how much easier it is to use and the results. As far as grinders go I went with a used commercial grinder 64mm flat burr, including burr replacement it cost me $225. It is possible to get a great setup used within your high budget. If you want new equipment I would go with the lelit as that was what I was originally looking at I like the additional features and lower price point, and save for an electric higher quality grinder.
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RichardCoffee
Senior Member


Joined: 2 Dec 2010
Posts: 108
Location: Long Beach
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: gaggia baby twin, mini...
Grinder: fiorenzato pietro 63mm,...
Roaster: weber grill with rk drum
Posted Sun Jun 10, 2012, 5:30pm
Subject: Re: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

If it were me, I'd think seriously about a used machine.  There are a couple on the buy, sell, trade forum right now.
There's this: FS Isomac TEA $650/Rocky $160 and there's this: Nuova Simonelli Ellimatic (Heat Exchanger) - $300 with shipping.  I wouldn't take the Rocky,  but the espresso machines look like decent values.
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fox2000
Senior Member
fox2000
Joined: 18 May 2012
Posts: 46
Location: WA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Isomac Millenium I
Grinder: Mazzer S.J. Auto & MDX
Posted Sun Jun 10, 2012, 6:26pm
Subject: Re: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

I agree I like the idea of buying from a forum member by the time I figured out this was an option I already had my machine and was in a time crunch on buying a grinder. In hindsight I would deffinatly try CG members 1st as they are more trustworthy and less likely to sell you a lemon. I know Russel has a couple of really good used commercial grinders for very reasonable prices.
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AndyPanda
Senior Member
AndyPanda
Joined: 12 Jul 2010
Posts: 769
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Olympia Cremina, Various...
Grinder: Mazzer Major, Fiorenzato,...
Vac Pot: vintage Corey
Drip: AeroPress
Roaster: BreadMachine/HeatGun
Posted Sun Jun 10, 2012, 7:40pm
Subject: Re: Help me change my setup in the RIGHT way
 

I don't have experience with the Delonghi machines ... but I can tell you that some of these inexpensive machines can pull very good shots as long as they have a proper, unpressurized portafilter and basket.  For me the secret, with the cheap machines, is figuring out how to time the heating cycle to get a decent brew temp.  The cheaper machines tend to have really small boilers (or thermoblocks) that have wild variations in brew temp.

I would agree with the previous poster who suggested trying a known good espresso roast before you spend the money on a new machine.  I would strongly suggest buying some RedBird espresso blend - it's a very forgiving coffee that tastes pretty good over a range of brew temps and pressures.  You can order it online for a great price and receive it just a couple of days post roast.  I'm a home roaster too .. and I love my own roasts .. but I still buy RedBird now and then and use it as a sanity check and benchmark for my own roasts.  It's a very comfort food sort of espresso roast.

Then I would experiment with finer/coarser grinds and smaller/larger doses --- and verify that BOTH your filter basket and your filter holder are now non-pressurized.  You might also want to get a digital thermometer ($10-25) and styrofoam cup and practice temp surf routines to learn how to consistently get 198-202F from your machine.

I've got a very inexpensive Briel with a little 53mm portafilter that has been converted to non-pressurized --- with some practice to get the temps right, I'm able to pull very good shots with that little machine.
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