Posted Fri Mar 21, 2014, 4:06pm Subject: Re: please recommend a machine
I'm not going to comment on the machine recommendation because other members are better suited to do so (you're looking at some very nice stuff at that price range). I just wanted to give my 2 cents on the coffee:
With very few exceptions (a grocery store that roasts in house or brings it in from a local roaster), you will not be able to produce quality espresso with grocery store beans...Peet's included. To put it bluntly, I'de rather drink espresso from fresh beans coming out of $99 machine than Peet's or other comparable high-end grocery store beans out of a $2000 machine (assuming they are ground with the same grinder yada yada). That bodes the question "what is fresh?" There are lots of pages on the forum devoted to this but the general rule is that anything outside of 2 weeks after roasting is not fresh. That sounds crazy to most people not in espresso-land but the difference between 7 day old beans and 3 week old beans is astounding (do a side-by side when you get your setup and you'll see for yourself!). Crema is produced under the high pressures of espresso brewing; it's a result of the CO2 in beans exiting those beans during the process. As beans age, they naturally "blow off" CO2 (its why bags of coffee puff up when sealed). If there is no CO2 in the beans when you grind them up, there is none to produce crema :-( The carbon dioxide also changes the flavor profile and general espresso experience (among other things involved with beans aging). I would recommend sourcing beans from a local roaster or purchasing them on line from a small batch roaster (there are many that will turn up if you play around on the forum). If you find beans in a local storefront, make sure that they have a "roasted on" date instead of a "best by" date. The best by date is pretty much useless, many of them go out to 6 months after roasting.
It sounds like you're looking into a very high end setup, I'de hate to see you dislike it on the count of bad beans!
Posted Sat Mar 22, 2014, 3:38am Subject: Re: please recommend a machine
Hi JT and welcome to CoffeeGeek,
Let me start by answering a question you had in your other thread. Do you need a $200 tamper to make good espresso? No, the tamper is only a hard flat surface to apply even pressure to the puck. Any inexpensive one will do every bit as good as a $200 one. So what is needed?
Good beans. They should be roasted within 2 weeks of use. I'm going to generalize on this and a few other things here- There are lengthy threads on this and just about every other aspect of espresso making debating the finer details of it all. Coffee is a food and just like the flour you keep in your cupboard for months, once you bake it into bread it starts to go stale. Once the beans are roasted they also begin to stale- coffee needs a few days to degas or rest as we say though- so from 6 days to 2-3 weeks is the prime (3 weeks is pushing it actually). Once the coffee is ground it's all over though- you have a few minutes before you lose the flavor.
The grinder. It cannot be stressed enough that the grinder is more important to good espresso than the machine. The coffee needs to be ground uniformly for even extraction of the "goodness". You grind finer for quicker extraction like espresso and coarser for slower methods like drip or coarser yet for french press. If your grind size is all over the place you get some under extraction and some overextraction- and if you're lucky some will be right, but you won't taste it over the other. The fine grind you need for espresso is more finicky than the coarser methods- although those also need a good grind for truly good coffee. I could make better coffee with a good grinder and a clean sock than with a whirly blade grinder and a $5000 espresso machine!
The machine. The machine needs to push water, at the proper temp, thru the puck, at the proper pressure. With the inexpensive machines this can be tricky and take patience and practice. The more expensive machines afford you the luxury of having minimal fussing to provide the proper water temperature. And also provide steam to steam milk without waiting for the boiler temp to change as with a SBDU (or single boiler dual use) machine. There are currently two basic types of higher end machines. HX or heat exchange machines, these have a boiler that has water at steam temp, with a tube running thru it- the Heat exchanger- that brings the brew water running thru it up to brew temp as it goes. These types of machines have been in use for many many years. A newer style machine, which is very popular nowadays, is the dual boiler machine. They have one boiler, typically temp adjusted with a PID- an electronic device that very precisely controls the temp., for the brew water, and a second separate boiler for the steam. It is probably safe to say that someone new starting out could get up to speed quicker on a dual boiler machine, but that's not to say the HX machine is all that difficult to master. Please don't ask which is better- there are plenty of threads debating the goods and not as goods of each. (note I didn't say bads- they're both good).
This brings us to number 4- the person doing the work. As you might surmise from the above, the more expensive equipment will in fact make it easier to make consistently good espresso or cappuccino. Nonetheless there is still the need for the person to properly use said equipment. Dial in the grinder properly. make small adjustments as the beans become a day or two older. keep the equipment clean so the flavors aren't tainted with yesterdays bitter leftovers. properly prepare the puck, etc. etc. We who take these things seriously do so for the wonderful taste of the espressos and cappuccinos we get in return. A world of coffee that most folks don't even know exists.
If you're still with me here than I guess this all still interests you. I would suggest you do some more poking around, reading, and checking out different machines you read about that interest you. Some of the more common equipment retailers around here are- Chris coffee, 1st line, Whole latte love, Seattle coffee gear- if I've left anyone out someone help me out :) The price range you're looking at will give you a number of options of nice setups, and most people spending that kind of money choose based on particular little things they've seen about one machine or another- often even looks at that point.
Feel free to ask questions- that's what we're all here for, but if you ask is this or that $2000 machine a good machine the answer is likely going to be yes (unless you're back to talking superautos) so maybe be more specific than that in your questions.
Cheers and happy hunting, Ron
Edit to add- You should take your time with this a bit- get to know the GRINDERS AND machines that are currently popular and get a feel for what you like. You're not buying a toaster- a good setup will last you for many years!
JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,372 Location: Berkeley, CA Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -... Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -... Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup Drip: CCD, Chemex Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Sat Mar 22, 2014, 9:01am Subject: Re: please recommend a machine
I thought I posted this last night, but -- guess not.
Two things to keep in mind, above all else:
The Four M's of Espresso: 1) the Macinazione is the grinder, and with it, the correct grinding of the coffee beans; 2) the Miscela is the coffee beans/blend itself; 3) the Macchina is the espresso machine; and 4) the Mano is the skilled hand of the barista.
All four are important. Nothing is more important than the grinder.
/ / / / /
Babbie's Rule* of Fifteens: -- Green (unroasted) coffee beans should be roasted within 15 months, or they go stale. -- Roasted coffee beans should be ground within 15 days, or they go stale. -- Ground coffee should be used within 15 minutes, or it goes stale.
Now, please know there is nothing wrong with Peet's . . . but there is a whole world of roasters out there available to you. Part of the fun is discovering new coffees from new, different roasters. (In deference to Ron's post, I should add that the original Peet's location is just down the hill from where I live, and when I used to drink Peet's, I always got fresh beans. I would never buy beans in a supermarket, and I rarely drink Peet's today -- though I still find it preferable to *$.)
$3,000 is a rock-solid amount to obtain a really good setup. But there is no single machine that is the "best." There is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, and there is more than one way to produce a great espresso. Since you want to make cups of cappuccino and machiatto, as well as americanos, you will need to have a machine that has adequate steaming power and a hot water tap.
In terms of machines, I'd look to HX semi- or full-automatics -- but never super-automatics! -- or DB semi- or full-automatics, in your price range. Figure on spending (appox.) +/- $1K on the grinder, the rest on the machine.
If you are not confident that you know what I mean when I say "HX semi-" or "DB full-auto," read this -- trust me; it's worth it.
__________ * OK, so there are very few hard-and-fast "rules" -- more like "rules-of-thumb."
sleepingtiger Senior Member Joined: 21 Mar 2014 Posts: 5 Location: Texas Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Sat Mar 22, 2014, 2:38pm Subject: Re: please recommend a machine
thank you so much for you response. as suggested, i googled the best coffee shop in Dallas and went to The Pearl Latte. My wife has now opened her eyes to the world of true barristers. She no longer wants the Miele super automatic. I told her that it will take lots of practice to pull the right shot and I will do everything to help her. Thanks again everyone for your suggestions.
Posted Sun Mar 23, 2014, 8:18am Subject: Re: please recommend a machine
It isn't as daunting as some would like to make it. As long as you are patient, have freshly roasted beans, a great grinder and a very good espresso machine, it will come.
I have an HX machine. That means a single boiler with heat exchanger, it is plumbed in because it makes handling the water in/out not an issue and with an HX you do flushes to bring the grouphead temp down to a proper level. For me that means while my beans are grinding, I run a flush and by the time the grind is done, so is the flush. It has gotten to be almost automatic for me these days.
Since you indicate that you like the milk drinks then a machine that steams good is really important. HX's and Double boiler machines in general do this very well and quickly. Single boilers can, but have to ramp up the temp for steam, then ramp down for espresso. Kind of a PITA imo.
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