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Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Is my pursuit...  
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Fenechy
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Aug 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Kent
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Thu Aug 1, 2013, 3:53pm
Subject: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

Hi all. Almost brand new to this world and got into it having bought a Dualit Espressivo. I know, I know, crap machine right? I did lots of research but not enough to get past the world of Which and Gadget Show reviews and into the world of espresso geekishness.

Anyway, I have learned now that next step is a grinder and have eyes on an MC2 on eBay so fingers crossed. If I get that I'll buy the non pressurized filter for the portafiller. Then a decent tamp and I'm hoping this will all make a significant difference. (Good beans too of course!).

My question is, what is the biggest challenge or problem I'm likely to face with the Dualit? It's a thermoblock... what ever relevance that makes. Oh, and the big big question is, am I on a pointless pursuit for perfection if at the moment, I drink flat whites and not espresso?! Sorry, did I just say something bad?? But seriously, I'm guessing the better the espressos shot the better the milk drink so want to get it as good as I can.

Thoughts on Dualit and whether, as long as I keep drinking milk in my coffee, I should bother worrying about an upgrade to the Gaggia Classic?

Thanks all.

Please excuse typos. Sent on the fly.
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frcn
Senior Member
frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,394
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 Thu Aug 1, 2013, 8:34pm
Subject: Re: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

Meaning to be neither rude nor insulting, the problem is first with your attitude. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your pursuit of perfection, at least I fully hope not. It is the pursuit of perfection that has driven me for over a decade, and the same has driven most all dedicated home baristas. Expecting perfection may be the problem. You are correct in assuming that a thermoblock machine will be a major hazard along the road in your pursuit of perfection. BUT, with quality fresh coffee and a quality grinder, even a thermoblock machine is capable of making drinkable espresso. The greatest challenge will be in your effort to control as many variables as possible so that you can CONSISTENTLY create the best espresso you can every time with the tools you have.  

So that quest for consistent performance  is twofold - first, recognizing good espresso so you know what the target looks like. If you can sip a cup without spitting it into the sink (or onto the floor) and then finish the cup without making a face we can call that a foundation.

The second part is all about controlling as many factors as possible, and having control over the variables to tune to taste. That is a challenge to say the least, but it is one that has kept me motivated and interested in this "hobby" for over 12 years.  The following may help a LOT:

On my website www.EspressoMyEspresso.com, check out this article: 12 - EASY GUIDE TO BETTER ESPRESSO AT HOME

That article should keep you busy reading for about a week, and referring to it for at least the next six months.  ;-)

And the answer to the question: Yes, the Gaggia will likely give superior performance than a thermoblock machine if paired with a quality grinder. And next time, ask about equipment before buying. We are here to help.

 
Visit My Website
www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
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Fenechy
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Aug 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Kent
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Fri Aug 2, 2013, 3:26am
Subject: Re: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

Never tell someone with an attitude problem that they have an attitude problem. Especially when they've just had 2 espressos off the back of your recommendations! But seriously, Ive not yet read through the link you sent but I did navigate through to your post about drinking and appreciating espresso. Then I remembered a little coffee house that opened out the back of my work and boy did I get lucky. We're dedicated to offering a choice in espresso - we're serving seasonal blends and single-estate coffees on our Silver Spirit silver La Marzocco FB80 espresso machine and twin robur grinders. Had one of each of the espressos they are serving and what a delight! So now Im depressed. They say ignorance is bliss no more bliss for me now then. Luckily the MC2 is still at 60 and the Gaggia Classic Im watching is only 35 with 1 day to go. Fingers crossed! And I now have a place to buy locally roasted beans. The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. Step 1 taken. Thanks for your guidance.
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frcn
Senior Member
frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,394
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 Fri Aug 2, 2013, 6:14am
Subject: Re: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

I am pleased that you appreciated my assistance. When you get time to read through the blog portion of my site you will quickly see that, in the beginning of my journey I started much the same as you (nearly duplicated) and got valuable assistance on a forum. After my first bit of looking around I thought, "$125 should be plenty to spend for a machine that makes coffee." That was in late-2000. Now I have a grinder that has burrs that cost that much to replace! The street value of my espresso machine and grinder is greater than I paid for my used car. A journey begins with a first step they tell us. what they left out was the part about being careful about choosing the first step!   ;-)

 
Visit My Website
www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,065
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Fri Aug 2, 2013, 3:07pm
Subject: Re: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

Definitely read his article 12. Do it before your gear arrives at least once - you won't regret it. I've said this time and time again...it's one of the best things out there for developing and improving technique...and it's freakin free!!!

Oh, and good luck on your bidding wars...

.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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MikeReilly
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 304
Location: Vancouver Island
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Cimbali Junior Gaggia...
Grinder: Pharos CC45 Mazzer Mini
Drip: Cuisinart
Roaster: Behmor, I-Roast 2, Popper
Posted Fri Aug 9, 2013, 7:44pm
Subject: Re: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

Definitely read frcn's "Easy Espresso" article.  It's one of the best thought out guides on the net.  I still refer to it when I get in a rut to help solve issues with shots.
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Fenechy
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Aug 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Kent
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Aug 19, 2013, 6:30am
Subject: Re: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

So - quick update. I've purchased an Ibertal MC2 and a Gaggia Classic and am on the way. The MC2 is new but the Gaggia is 2nd hand. I got it for 40 but boy did it need some care! It is 10 years old but only used a few times. This turned out not to be a good thing though. It was used a few times and then left with water in it so the limescale build up was quite incredible. A quick search on the net though and I had it stripped down. Cleaned out the boiler, 3-way valve, pipes, grouphead, shower screen (took about an hour on that alone with a pin! - Should have just bought a new one), did a descale etc and voila - it is working like... well, its working and that is the main thing.

Happydonkey sent me 2 packs of complimentary beans which was nice. By the time I got them though they were just pas their sell-buy date but this is actually quite handy as I've felt les guilt burning through shot after shot of espresso trying to get the timing right. I'm getting close but I have a couple of questions. Hoping you can help frcn, or anyone else.

  1. At the moment I get 2oz in 25 seconds with a fine grind and a good hard tamp. Should I be trying to go finer and lighter with the tamp? What are the effects at either end of the spectrum?
  2. My coffee mugs don't fit under the portafilter. I'm assuming that transferring from an espresso cup into the mug for latte is a bad idea as I lose crema. Is there a work around or should I be replacing our mugs? (Don't want to unless I have to as they were only recently purchased)
  3. Same sort of thing for the milk. I have a larger pitcher with enough room to steam and expand but no good for pouring. I then have a smaller pitcher for latte art but not quite big enough for steaming. If I pour from one to the other does it damage texture of the milk?
  4. I've got a dosserless grinder so am at the mercy of the timed 7g speed to try and get an even dose. When I tap the portafilter down on the tamper mat, it angles up slightly away from me. It makes me want to tap it on the side but you're instructions say not to. What am I doing wrong and how can I tap it to get a flat top before tamping? (I've managed to do the 'supside down' test successfully.)

Re the above, I'm getting a good amount of crema and the shot looks good coming out of the bottomless portafilter. Can't gage too well on taste as the beans are a bit old but it seems ok. Latte art has not been working but I've read your guide on that and realise now I'm over stretching and heating so will try some new techniques later when I'm home.

Anyway, thanks for your time and guidance everyone. I've been waiting a long time to pour the coffee I poured yesterday and whilst I've lots of room to improve - it was so much better than anything the Dualit did with supermarket ground coffee.

J
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,065
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon Aug 19, 2013, 7:10am
Subject: Re: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

I'm quite surprised you seemingly are getting good extractions with that coffee. Generally speaking, best by and sell by dates translate into extremely old stale beans. The only worthwhile date on the bag is the roasted on date. Burr grinders have a break in period measured in pounds of beans, typically 3-5# I believe. Until you get there you should expect to have less consistency and more micro adjusting.

I don't think it does much harm to pour your spro from one cup to another, but if it can be avoided easily...why not. Besides your drinks feature milk, not espresso. Every pitcher has a volume of milk that can be frothed optimally, assuming you have the steam pressure (ie, don't try doing a quart with your Gaggia). In other words, if you want to use your little pitcher, figure out the proper milk volume. If you stick with your large pitcher...you could, 1) bend or hammer out the spout, 2) use it to get your frothing technique down and then replace it.

Don't ever vary your tamp pressure. You adjust flow and taste by varying dose and grind. Go back and reread Randy's article. Also, there's a great brief guide to this on home barista, under "espresso 101". It's also linked in a thread here called something like, favorite coffee bookmarks. Having said that 2oz in 25 seconds isn't far off. How does it taste?

Fingers and straight sticks are both good for prepping the surface of your basket for the tamper. Some will argue you can't get consistent dose weights by leveling off, but with conscious practice it can be achieved. It is exactly the method that Heather Perry (2 time US Barista champion) teaches in her classes. You would definitely need a scale that has 0.1 g resolution. They run about $20-40, depending on make and model. I don't ever tap my pf on anything or with anything.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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D4F
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 2,007
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Baratza Forte-AP
Posted Mon Aug 19, 2013, 9:50am
Subject: Re: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

Welcome to Gaggia :)

You did not specify which basket you are using.  IIRC from my package insert, only North America gets the double non-pressurized basket. What do you use?  How much coffee in?  I found the doubles a bit watery at 2 oz in 25 sec and suggest something in the 30 - 45 gm output.  Note gm output as 2 oz may mean 2 fluid oz of espresso after the crema settles or 2 oz counting crema.  I note your 7g speed, but am not sure how that translates to actual dose.

For fit of container under the PF, you may wish to remove the spouts if not already done.  Warning, they are fixed on with thread lock and you need a padded vise.  Do not try without a vise!

I end up with about 17 gms coffee in a double non-pressurized basket.  I have a heaping basket and tamp it once to settle that dose or a lot would scrape off.  Some tamp and some do not.  I only do to keep the dose I want.  If your basket is non-pressurized dose and tamp become more important.  Tamp needs to be consistent as noted.  If you want 30 lbs, not a magic number, or any other tamp, you can press the tamper on a bathroom scale for the feel.

Steaming solution or the machine portion of it, as there is still the operator :)

http://www.espressoparts.com/R_1054?&search_id=2179838

Research PID as that will help temperature and steam.

Yes again to the FRCN article.

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,023
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Wed Aug 21, 2013, 7:34am
Subject: Re: Is my pursuit for perfection pointless?
 

I use a rattleware shot glass with double spouts to measure and judge my espresso and then pour it in my cup.  Once I have the grind nailed down I then just normally pull into my prewarmed cup.  I use a small 12 oz pitcher to steam the 3-4 oz of milk for my drink. I use an old fashioned 7oz 1960's dinner cup I got at goodwill for a $1.  I got it because it was the right size and a smooth round bottom for latte art.  Turns out they are collectible, shenango china made in PA, who knew?   I have 5 of them now even thought they cost more off ebay, because they are restaurant ware they are almost indestructible as well as the right size and shape and heavy enough to hold the heat.

My grinder has a scale built in so that is taken care of.  My machine is used but in nice shape with a well balanced theromsyphon so my shots are pretty good. Any bad shots are my fault.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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