Posted Thu Dec 19, 2013, 7:03am Subject: Aspiring Espresso geek - Asking for some guidance
Just wanted to get some feedback on my current ideas in regards to improving our espresso setup and then future purchases. This all began when my mother in law retired her Starbucks Barista machine and purchased a Silvia+Rocky combo. I probably pull about 8 doubles a day on the Silvia when we visit and they turn out decently. Despite her old stale (she assumes premium) Starbucks beans. I have come to find through a lot of research that even the Silvia and Rocky are only entry level machines.
Our current state at home.
Functioning Starbucks Barista machine
Starbucks burr grinder
Starbucks whole bean coffee
My plan in the immediate future, Phase 1:
Get fresh beans from a local roaster
53mm Rattleware Tamper (I know PPF don't *need* tamped but I have found it helps)
Slightly downrange: Phase 1.5
Baratza Virtuoso Grinder (Read entire coffeegeek review comparing, decided to go with this instead of Baratza Vario for now)
A non pressurized PF, either standard or bottomless
Next year-ish: Phase 2
Upgrade Machine - either the Silvano or if I can convince my wife the Alexia w/PID
Is there anything I am missing here? Any suggestions would be appreciated. I fully understand the crushing limits of our current setup but want to try and get the best espresso I can before diving into a hugely expensive machine upgrade.
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 7,734 Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A. Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32 Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major Vac Pot: 40s era Silex Drip: Msl. Com. brewers Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu Dec 19, 2013, 7:37am Subject: Re: Aspiring Espresso geek - Asking for some guidance
Hi and welcome. If your grinder is the Starbucks Barista, then it is a Solis 166 and is NOT able to grind for espresso, I have one and know first hand..
The Virtuoso is NOT able to grind for non pressurized portafilter espresso, not gonna happen and I don't care what the advert copy says, it is not an espresso grinder.
You should revise your plans
Step one, fresh high quality beans. Step two, good grinder (better than Rocky, does the name Vario ring a bell? De pressurize PF. Get scale for dosing. Step three, upgrade accessories, Step 4 upgrade machine.
Like most, you are under valuing the need for a quality espresso grinder
In real life, my name is Wayne P. Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!
Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
I definitely comprehend the importance of the grind, although have not yet had the chance to appreciate the difference. I assumed that a step up from the Solis 166 to a Virtuoso would be lightyears ahead and while using a PPF would improve results. But, I agree a Vario would be much better especially at keeping up with any improvements down the line (depressurized PF, upgraded machine). I just found out Baratza has a refurb program and a refurbed Vario only runs $360. The cost of a Rocky and only about 130 more than a Virtuoso. That's probably the path I will go down once ready.
So much to learn! Thanks again for the advice and tips. The amount of expertise and knowledge around here is impressive!
Posted Thu Dec 19, 2013, 1:41pm Subject: Re: Aspiring Espresso geek - Asking for some guidance
Javadawg - Wayne is 100% right. I was in the same boat as you. My first grinder was a rebadged Solis 166 aka Starbucks machine. I went into a Baratza Preciso next and now own a Vario. The Virtuoso is not a capable espresso grinder. It will grind fine enough to choke an espresso machine, but that does not make it an espresso grinder. On the Baratza comparison chart, they show it as being capable of doing espresso, but it really can't. The reason is that the amount of adjustment made between each step is too large to grind properly for espresso. For example, you could set it to three and find that it grinds too fine and the espresso just drips out way too slowly. So, you adjust to the next step up and now it's gushing out. An espresso grinder should be stepless so you can make the minute adjustment needed in between each step, or as in the case of the Preciso or Vario, have micro-steps between the larger adjustments. It may not seem like a big deal, but it's all the difference and the defining feature of an espresso grinder.
Save yourself the $$$ and go with the Vario. I had the Preciso and although it was a great "first espresso grinder", it suffers from breaking down alot. The gears in the gearbox get stripped out when using a lighter roast (more dense than darker roast) and I had a lot of issues with the adjustment ring. I rebuilt it countless times and finally just kept spare parts on hand so I could fix ASAP when something broke. The Vario has been a much better grinder. I wish I had saved myself the $$$ and just bought the Vario initially.
Posted Thu Dec 19, 2013, 1:46pm Subject: Re: Aspiring Espresso geek - Asking for some guidance
Wow...thanks Sherpakid for relaying your experience with Baratza grinders. Definitely informative and eye opening. At the cost of a refurbed unit I am more than happy to go with the Vario direct from Baratza once money allows. I think that along with going depressurized, and perhaps most (or 2nd most) important getting fresh locally roasted beans I will be enjoying much better espresso.
I see you own the Quickmill Silvano. What did you use before than and how did you feel upgrading to the machine? Any regrets or tips you could share? Would love to hear your thoughts on it.
Posted Thu Dec 19, 2013, 2:25pm Subject: Re: Aspiring Espresso geek - Asking for some guidance
I have had a virtuoso for some time. I use it for drip sometimes and to fine grind to sprinkle on vanilla ice cream. I also use it as out travel grinder (the Kony is not well suited for RV use). While it sort of works for espresso, sort of, you will get about one click on it, and if you are very lucky, two to choose from. For the better machines you are looking at it, they will not be well served with the Virtuoso.
Posted Thu Dec 19, 2013, 3:04pm Subject: Re: Aspiring Espresso geek - Asking for some guidance
Javadawg - I went from a Krups machine to a Francis Francis X5 to the Silvano, but I had experience using higher-end prosumer machines prior to my purchase. I bought mine from Chris Coffee and got it for $850 in the Buyer's Remorse section. The owner had ordered one and it arrived with a dent in the box, so he refused the order and that's why it was on the Buyer's Remorse section. It was basically brand new, never been opened.
I can't praise it enough. I was looking for a dual boiler, but they were out of my price range. I was extremely nervous about having a thermoblock for steaming and I almost didn't buy it because of that, but I drink mainly espressos and make the daily cappuccino for my wife so I figured it would be fine. It hasn't been an issue for me. I will say that it was a bit of a learning curve, but after watching this video, it all came together and I was steaming well enough to pour art. The steam power hasn't been an issue for home use for me at all, even when I've had 5 guests.
The PID is great. I switch between two espresso blends and being able to adjust temp has raised the game for me. Having the three-way has helped keep things nice and clean and is less work. The boiler is large, .7L. I let it warm up for 15mins and pull my first shot. At 30mins, it's very stable and a very short time needed between shots to come back up to temp.
It's a great machine and the bang for the buck. I know alot of people look to CC1 to save $$$, but I like the stainless steel and build quality of it.
No regrets. The Vario and Silvano are a great combo for home. I work in the industry part-time and have access to commercial machinery, so no need for me to spend crazy amounts for home use, although, should I have extra cash laying around it would be tempting if I ever move out of Brooklyn and have the space. So, my advice is get the Vario and the Silvano. Although it's entry level, it's not cheap, but it's something you'll have and be very pleased with for years down the road.
Posted Thu Dec 19, 2013, 4:05pm Subject: Re: Aspiring Espresso geek - Asking for some guidance
You can also just look at getting a non-pressurized filter basket for your machine.. Im sure there are ones out there that will fit. Usually the Sbx machines are re-branded industry models so it shouldn't be too hard to find parts.
In factheres one now they also sell the bottomless PF's which you may need if your portafilter wont accommodate a standard basket
I would say the grinder should be your primary focus at this point. Get something with bigger burrs, preferably anything over 50mm, though many of us use bigger grinders upwards of 64mm. For espresso, you really want stepless, or micro adjustment and you dont want to go back and forth between drip and espresso settings too often. If you were to stick with baratza, many people are happy with the vario, and I think after using it and the virtuoso, that it is definitely a better grind... more consistent anyway. Really you're better off with a dedicated espresso-only grinder, like a mazzer -but that may be a phase 10 problem. For now, the ascaso grinder line-up is pretty good and there are others in that under $300 price range that will make a huge difference in the cup.
I used for many years, a Krups XP4030 machine with a non-ppf and and Ascaso I-1D. It was a great cheapo set up that with the right care around the thermoblock, generated pretty solid coffee. Remember, the machine is just a hot water pump, the grinder is a bigger issue.
CMIN Senior Member Joined: 14 Jun 2012 Posts: 1,362 Location: South FL Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: Crossland CC1 Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Thu Dec 19, 2013, 7:02pm Subject: Re: Aspiring Espresso geek - Asking for some guidance
As a Preciso owner, I can say the Vario is well worth it and wish I went that route instead but I snagged a deal on a Preciso that was hard to pass up. Vario is much better, it grinds with the grind quality and taste of the class of grinders like the Super Jolley, K6 etc. My next grinder will pry be the HG-One as I single dose. Baratzas are actually great for single dosing too b/c of their short path and tiny retention.
Posted Thu Dec 19, 2013, 8:14pm Subject: Re: Aspiring Espresso geek - Asking for some guidance
FRCN - Thanks for the reply. I'll likely be going with the Vario at this point.
Sherpakid - Sounds like a great deal on the Silvano. Really like that it has a PID built in. I agree the dual boilers look nice, but price wise is just more than I am willing to go for at the moment. Glad to hear that you can't find much fault with the Silvano! We mainly drink espresso and americanos here though I would like to make a flat white on occasion. Yeah, the CCI is a few hundred dollars less but doesn't appeal to me as much either. Vario and Silvano then is in the plans. :) Thanks again for your help!
Acasabia - Yes, I will definitely be getting a non pressurized portafilter soon. I was thinking of the bottomless one sold by SeattleCoffeeGear. Any thoughts as to standard vs bottomless? Glad you've heard good things about the Vario too. Consensus is that the grinder is up to the task, while not being as robust as some upper level machines (Mazzer etc)
CMIN - Yeah good deals are hard to pass up! I'll be grabbing a Vario as soon as money allows.
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