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#302396 - 04/19/10 01:26 PM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: michael_d]
PeterChenoweth Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 10/23/03
Posts: 1349
Loc: Jacksonville, IL
No problem.

As far as getting consistent shots, the best thing to do is just practice.

A good grinder is essential. You can have the best machine, perfectly aged and roasted beans, a precise tamp, and the ghost of Achille Gaggia himself watching over your shoulder, but if the grind is inconsistent, it's all for naught. Get something solid that's a burr grinder. For heaven's sake, no blade grinders. I'm really happy with my Gaggia MDF. I know the Rancillio Rocky is very highly praised as well. I've heard it on a lot of espresso forums - you're better off with a "great" grinder and a mediocre machine than a "great" machine and a mediocre grinder. Don't skimp on the grinder.

Always make sure the machine is hot. Let it heat up all the way (on the "espresso" setting, NOT the "steam" setting) then run at least double-shot's worth of hot water through the brew head before you do any espresso-making.

Assuming you have a good grinder, the best way is to just play. Buy a decent bag of recently roasted (<2 weeks) beans. I actually like my roasts to be a little darker than most "espresso" roasts. French roast is way too dark & oily. I like a "full city +" roast or a "light French roast". The easiest thing to do is to find a local coffee shop and buy a bag of their "house" espresso. It may not be your perfect bean/roast in the end, but it's a good place to start.

http://www.sweetmarias.com/roasting-VisualGuideV2.php

Set the grinder to super-fine, and tamp it down hard. Then try to pull a shot. Your espresso machine will choke; pumps straining, but nothing (or just a few drops) of a motor-oil like substance coming from the brewhead. Ick. Too much. Shut it down, throw out the sludge, & dump out the grinds from the portafilter. Now back it way off; loosen the grind up several settings and tamp lightly. Brew again, and you'll get "espresso" that flows like drip coffee, with no crema. Ick. Toss & clean. That's too little.

Somewhere between those extremes lies the key.

Now start adjusting the grind. You want the grind to be pretty fine, but not powdery. If you really want to know, go to a good local espresso shop and buy a bag of beans, and tell them you want them to grind it for you - Espresso grind. When you get home, open it up and feel the grind. Rub it between your fingers and get a feel for it. Now try to duplicate that with your grinder.

When you get something that's like a decent espresso grind, just tamp it. I'm not scientific; I just loosly overfill the double-shot portafilter with grinds (as in, it's heaping above the level of the portafilter, but it's a loose pile of grounds), then level it off with an offset cake-icing knife, then I tamp it down. I give it a good solid press & twist. Just enough to make a nice puck. That's what works for my machine - every machine is different in how they respond to the amount of grounds, pressure, grind, etc.

With some practice, you'll get pulls that are thick, rich, and almost entirely crema. Perfect.

As you pull more shots over the months, you'll key in on more nuances. It becomes easy to tell when your beans are getting old (weaker crema). Or when your roast is too light/dark. And you'll learn that shots quality differs depending on how long the machine's been hot. Stuff like that. But just give it time and lots of practice.

And if you want a specific recomendation for beans... Right now, my #1 pick is the "Red Line Espresso" from Metropolis Coffee:

http://www.metropoliscoffee.com/shop/category/coffee/blends/view/redline-espresso-p1/

Absolutely killer beans, IMHO.

Good luck!

 Originally Posted By: michael_d

Thanks Peter.

Have any tips to share for pulling a consistent shot? I’m just learning and my shots are all over the board. I am using between 16-18 grams of coffee, attempting to use 30 pounds of tamping pressure and shooting for 30 seconds to get a 2.5 oz double, which includes the cap of crema.



Edited by PeterChenoweth (04/19/10 01:35 PM)
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#302401 - 04/19/10 01:56 PM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: PeterChenoweth]
oldskoolboarder Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 05/25/03
Posts: 2181
Loc: Menlo Park, CA
All good advice from Peter. Get some practice beans before committing to the good stuff. Get your technique down first.

A hot, primed boiler is best to work with. Never pull shots from a cold start. It'll damage your boiler and you won't have the right temp anyways.

A good grinder is key. You'll need to play w/ grind setting, tamper force, and pull timing to get the shot you want. A lot of that is feel (and taste). I started from the Golden Rule (20 to 25 seconds) for the timing. I find that more than 25 seconds means the pull is too bitter, grind is too fine (leading to a longer time), or the tamp is too hard. I have bought some beans that instructed me to a pull of 28 seconds but that's not common.

If you get some beans from a local roaster (or online) ask their recommendation for the time. That should give you a sense.

Happy drinking.

Another tip. It helps to warm up your demitasse cups before pulling the shot into them. You can use the water from the prime cycle too. By preheating the cups, you ensure that you keep the shot warm, rather than letting that heat warm up the cup. Makes a big diff. I learned when I went to Barefoot. They give you a free shot w/ your bean order. I asked for it to go and you would've thought I shot somebody w/ a gun. You never order that to go. You drink it in a piping hot, real cup, just like the Italians.

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#302404 - 04/19/10 02:20 PM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: oldskoolboarder]
michael_d Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 07/23/04
Posts: 3820
Loc: Up yonder
Peter - I think I have a pretty good grinder. It's a Barista Vario. I bought it after reading this review. http://www.home-barista.com/reviews/baratza-vario-grinder-second-look-t10195.html


Do you guys buy a pound at a time or buy more adn freeze it?
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#302409 - 04/19/10 02:31 PM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: michael_d]
oldskoolboarder Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 05/25/03
Posts: 2181
Loc: Menlo Park, CA
Whoa, that's fancy. Should be WAY more than fine.

I usually get under a pound, I only do a double shot a day. You never really want to freeze it, it kills the taste and you don't want the defrost moisture getting into the dry beans.

My roaster also recommends grinding a few days after roast, hence why the roast date is on the package. If it sits too long, the taste diminishes. I usually store my beans in a vacuum sealed container and then only grind what I drink, maybe a 1/3 or 1/4 cup of beans.


Edited by oldskoolboarder (04/19/10 02:31 PM)

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#302502 - 04/19/10 08:59 PM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: pmbuko]
ClubNeon Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 02/06/09
Posts: 3442
Loc: Western Maryland, USA
 Originally Posted By: pmbuko
the La Brea Tar Pits.

Eyjafjallajökull glacier.
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#302511 - 04/19/10 09:48 PM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: ClubNeon]
michael_d Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 07/23/04
Posts: 3820
Loc: Up yonder
Shipping to Alaska kills me. I went to order a five pound bag of that Red Line and they wanted $47 to ship it to me.

I have a commercial vacuum sealer (for game and fish). Do you think that would help if I froze a few pounds?
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#302572 - 04/20/10 09:42 AM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: michael_d]
PeterChenoweth Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 10/23/03
Posts: 1349
Loc: Jacksonville, IL
 Originally Posted By: michael_d
Shipping to Alaska kills me. I went to order a five pound bag of that Red Line and they wanted $47 to ship it to me.

I have a commercial vacuum sealer (for game and fish). Do you think that would help if I froze a few pounds?


Didn't know you lived in Alaska. Cool. Yeah, you're probably going to want to focus on local roasters up there. If you live near civilization, I'm pretty sure you'll be able to find a good roaster, these days. Perhaps try Anchorage. Shipping at least should be less than from down here in the 48. That Red Line is wonderful, but I don't think I'd pay $50-in-shipping costs either. ;-)

Yes indeed, that looks like a great grinder, as far as I know. I'd be happy with that. :-)

Don't freeze coffee. It freezes the oils in the beans. When those oils thaw, the flavor & brew quality doesn't recover to what it should be. I don't think thawed great beans aren't any better than a tin can of Folgers.

A one-pound bag of beans lasts us about two weeks. So at most, I'll buy two pounds at a time because that's about much as we can drink through before the beans really start to degrade. I keep them in an air-tight glass container, in a cool & dry cubbard. Ideally, I like to just buy one pound at a time so that the bean quality is always near peak.

However, depending on where you live in Alaska, buying frequently might not be an option. And in that case, I really don't know what to tell you in terms of how to store beans long-term. I'd think in that case, your only real option would be to roast them yourself. There's bound to be a thread or two or twelve on some coffee geek forum about this topic. I'd try to find that and see what they say.
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#400886 - 02/11/14 09:24 AM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: michael_d]
michael_d Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 07/23/04
Posts: 3820
Loc: Up yonder
Had a great coffee the other day... It was at a little Italian deli that a friend recommended.

I walked in and went to order my usual, quad shot, non-fat latte with a touch of flavoring. I did not notice the words in big letters on the board directly above the order station when I ordered it: "WHOLE MILK ONLY, NO FLAVORING". The young Italian gal first said "WHOLE MILK ONLY".... "OK, I'll try it, but put some vanilla in it". "NO FLAVORING"...."OK, I'll try it". I felt like a real idiot later when I finally saw what was written on the board....

So anyway, embarrassment aside, that was probably the best damn latte I've ever had. I did a little research, and they use some beans imported from Italy, "Intenso" beans. Between the beans and that whole milk, and just a wee bit of raw sugar, wonderful.
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#400891 - 02/11/14 12:27 PM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: michael_d]
JBG Offline
devotee

Registered: 06/14/02
Posts: 360
A good cup of coffee starts with a good brewer.. time it takes to make the brew vs temp... see some of the greatest brewers tested here I have the bonavita... and never looking back
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#400904 - 02/11/14 09:56 PM Re: Any coffee geeks here? [Re: PeterChenoweth]
1sweetspot Offline
veteran

Registered: 04/19/10
Posts: 165
Loc: Edmonton, Alberta
That could have bean Lavazza Intenso coffee they serve. That brand is one of Italy's most popular.

Not sure if any of you have tried using an Aeropress, but man I'm loving it. I have brewers ranging from Bialetti Mocha Express to French press, to a Rancilio Silvia, even a Tehnivorm Moccamaster, but I use that Aeropress every morning. Best $30 investment I've made in a long time!

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