Coffeenoobie Senior Member Joined: 11 Dec 2011 Posts: 2,317 Location: PNW Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: N S Oscar Grinder: Vario W
Posted Sat Sep 1, 2012, 10:51am Subject: Re: Espresso Machine for home use
Home machines will not help much if you want to be a barista. There are some low volume pro machines that run on 110 power that would help you learn that you can also use at home. Oscar like mine was bought used at a coffee shop that used it for event catering and just did not use it often enough so sold it to me. I have no way of knowing what you can find in Hong Kong.
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Posted Sat Sep 1, 2012, 12:34pm Subject: Re: Espresso Machine for home use
You'll want an HX (heat exchanger) machine, at the very least, to have sufficient steam volume to practice steaming milk and making latte art. Since all Hong Kong electric is 220V, you won't have to worry about anything other than the amperage capacity of your home circuit and whether or not the machine needs to be directly plumbed in or has an internal water reservoir that fills the boiler. Plumbed in is great for convenience, but if you're renting or in a situation where you can't run water lines to the machine, a reservoir machine may be a better choice for the moment. Some have kits that enable them to go from reservoir (also called "pour-over") to plumbed in.
If you can get a used commercial machine, it would be best to learn on, but it's really overkill for personal use unless you're making a lot of drinks every day. A light commercial machine like the Nuova Simonelli Oscar mentioned above (I have an earlier machine that's similar) is a good compromise.
Posted Sat Sep 1, 2012, 10:05pm Subject: Re: Espresso Machine for home use
I once asked a similar question to a friend of mine who owns and runs a cafe. His recommendation was to go work at a shop. I asked about learning different gear, and he recommended working at more than one shop. So that's what I did.
I don't know what the employment environment is like in HK, or how easy it would be to get a job. Some employers don't like to hire seasoned people because they tend to come with habits imparted by their previous experience. Sometimes those without the capacity to train may only wan't people who know what they are doing right away. Begin a home barista does not qualify you as seasoned, but how much of if you bring with you to the interview/job will inform your rapport with the person doing the hiring.
I think the best investment you can make outside of a job is in your palate. Drink a lot of good coffee. Do some solo cupping.
If you are going to get a machine and can't just go out and buy a GS/3, I would try to spend a modest sum on a good HX with a 58mm group. If you are trying to train at home you will want to replicate the physical feel of a commercial machine, but you don't need all sorts of bells and whistles because chances are you wouldn't be in control things like boiler temp or pre-infusion time at the first time barista job that you are trying to land. You don't need to spend more on a DB because you don't know what kind of machine you are going to be working on once you do get a job, and if it turns out to be a commercial DB it doesn't matter. Once you have a machine, spend you money on coffee and milk. Have some friends over and make two or three drinks for each. Have those friends over in a couple of days. Repeat. Make a lot of espresso. Steam a lot of milk.
All of this is my personal opinion as a home coffee enthusiast making the switch to a coffee professional.
N.B. The used market for light/medium duty commercial machines can be very soft (it is here in LA). If you can shoulder the risk, make the space, and handle the electrical load and cost, you might wind up spending less than you would on a fancy prosumer machine and really get familiar with the physical feel of the equipement you will be working on.
Posted Sat Sep 1, 2012, 10:27pm Subject: Re: Espresso Machine for home use
Running an espresso machine and making espresso, while not automatic, is not that difficult and can be taught. A home machine will teach you a little, but not in relation to the cost. Dealing with customers, irate and unreasonable customers, cash and accounting, food preparation, cleanliness, WC duty, stocking, and more, and doing it all at once. That's the tough part. While a shot is extracting, and you are steaming milk, asking "is there anything else" they would like, while watching the toaster over and making sure the drip pot doesn't flood over... again. That's the challenge.
Most of those machines are of little use for making good espresso at home, but they certainly don't qualify for training how to handle a commercial espresso machine. You'll need a prosumer HX machine at least. However, like Russel said there's no better training than actually working with professional equipment. Try to get some kind of "internship" at a local coffee shop.
*** "This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee)
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