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Old Jan 23, 2013, 12:55 PM   #1
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Espresso Enthusiasts

I'm looking to get into espresso making and was wanting to get some opinons from those with experience.

I have ~ $500 budget

So from what I've read so far, the #1 thing you need is a good grinder, correct? I was looking at the Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder as my first grinder.

I've also received numerous suggestions to purchas the Gaggia Classic for my machine.

I'm really looking to make lattes and specialty drinks like that more than anything else.

Any suggestions?


Link to the new coffee set-up thread in the picture gallery. Feel free to post your set up there, and discuss coffee and machines here!

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Old Jan 23, 2013, 12:58 PM   #2
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I've been through 4 different grinders and to be honest the best I found was a simple spice grinder.
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 01:01 PM   #3
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 01:12 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Peace View Post
I've been through 4 different grinders and to be honest the best I found was a simple spice grinder.
Used that one for the last two years and it did its job well. Mind I used only a Bialetti, so with a 'real' machine it very well may be a different story.

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Old Jan 23, 2013, 02:41 PM   #5
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I've been through 4 different grinders and to be honest the best I found was a simple spice grinder.
Please accept my apology for dismissing you suggestion in such an off handed manner.

Blade choppers may well be fine for press or grind, but are really not too good for espresso. Espresso requires a very fine grind, and there are two areas where the chopper fails. The uniformity of particle size is crucial. Choppers produce wildly variable particle size, from very fine to (relatively) huge chunks. This disallows proper tamping as it produces "channels" and a very uneven tamp. Since water under pressure takes the route of least resistance, channels allow the water to pass through the puck too quickly, reducing the time the water is in contact with the grinds, leading to under extraction.

Second, since the beans in the hopper are hit by the blades over and over and over...it produces a lot of heat in the grinds...death to the grinds. Heat is the enemy of the grinds, badly effecting the oils, among other things. A burr grinder hits each bean just ONCE, not over and over, minimizing the destructive heat in the grind.

Again, sorry if my comment seemed too dismissive, but blade grinders are really not the best way to grind for espresso.
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 03:29 PM   #6
elistan
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I'm quite happy with our Kitchenaid burr grinder.
http://www.kitchenaid.com/flash.cmd?...uct/KPCG100OB/
We've had it for five or six years now, no issues. Easy to disassemble and clean. Seems to produce a consitent grind, although we only rarely break out the espresso machine. Mostly drip and press.
It has 15 grind levels - never been an issue for us, since it does as fine or coarse as we need, but obviously not up to Shrink's standards. But it can be manually adjusted - the manual says "With adjustment, the Burr Coffee Mill will easily meet stringent Specialty Coffee Association of America grind-size specifications for espresso (250 micron grind size) or French Press brewing (1500 micron grind size)."
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 03:41 PM   #7
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I'm quite happy with our Kitchenaid burr grinder.
http://www.kitchenaid.com/flash.cmd?...uct/KPCG100OB/
We've had it for five or six years now, no issues. Easy to disassemble and clean. Seems to produce a consitent grind, although we only rarely break out the espresso machine. Mostly drip and press.
It has 15 grind levels - never been an issue for us, since it does as fine or coarse as we need, but obviously not up to Shrink's standards. But it can be manually adjusted - the manual says "With adjustment, the Burr Coffee Mill will easily meet stringent Specialty Coffee Association of America grind-size specifications for espresso (250 micron grind size) or French Press brewing (1500 micron grind size)."
First, and most important, whatever works for you is right for you.

As you point out, you mostly use it for coarser grinds, where particle uniformity is less crucial. While it will apparently produce 250 micron particles, that may be an average, but it does not speak to uniformity or variability of particle size. Also, when making very fine adjustments in grind to effect extraction time, 15 adjustments makes big jumps in grind adjustment (fineness or coarseness of grind), not a fine control necessary for adjusting extraction time.

All that said, I had a Kitchenaid, and for my needs at the time, it was fine.


EDIT: I agree completely with AhmedFaisal, about the water, and most especially the last paragraph of his post about the subjectivity of judgement regarding things like wine, cigars, and espresso. There are some issues of mechanics with espresso that are not totally subjective, however.
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 04:00 PM   #8
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I skip the whole grinding part nowadays, can't be bothered with it.

But here we go...

BODUM MILL:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/BODUM-Bistro...8978070&sr=8-4

FROTHER:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cafetiere-Bi...8978011&sr=8-7

MILK FROTHING THERMOMETER:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Andrew-James...8&sr=8-2-fkmr1

ESPRESSO MAKER:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bialetti-Mok...8978005&sr=8-1

BEANS:

http://www.equalexchange.co.uk/produ...Coffee%20Beans

ENJOY!


EDIT: some cheap mineral water from your local store to replace the tap water will also make a difference.

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Old Jan 23, 2013, 04:05 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by SandboxGeneral View Post
I know just the person who should read this thread and help you. I sent him a note to read this thread.
Quote:
Originally Posted by twietee View Post
Used that one for the last two years and it did its job well. Mind I used only a Bialetti, so with a 'real' machine it very well may be a different story.



3....2.....1....
Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking, too......

Quote:
Originally Posted by SandboxGeneral View Post
I've subscribed to the thread because Shrink has a vast knowledge of this stuff and I don't want to miss anything. I'm a newbie of espresso making as of last week.
Agree entirely. Shrink is an absolutely wonderful source of information on coffee.....sit back and enjoy, listen and learn because this is worth paying very close heed to.....


Quote:
Originally Posted by AhmedFaisal View Post
I am partial to stove top espresso makers from Bialetti. I have gone through every machine there is including in a moment of silliness convincing my gadget obsessed father to buy a Jura, which is the Miele of Espresso Machines. I came back to the old school stove top piece.

.........

As for the milk, some people swear by steamers but I actually use one of these contraptions with a regular pot to make my foamed milk.

All that said, listen this stuff is like wine, cigars or any other high priced hobby/food. Extremely subjective and dependent on your personal taste. So do what feels/tastes right for you and not what others tell you.
I agree with you; Bialetti is wonderful (I have a battered old espresso pot, a much loved and much used gift from my godmother who brought it back from Italy for me nearly 30 years ago). And yes, I, too, use a regular pot to make foamed milk, whenever I choose to make it....

Shrink, it is a pure pleasure to see you on a roll on your favourite topic (which happens to be one of mine, too). A privilege and pleasure to learn from an expert.......

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Old Jan 23, 2013, 04:05 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Shrink View Post
Again, sorry if my comment seemed too dismissive, but blade grinders are really not the best way to grind for espresso.
Actually, from one of my Expresso fanatic friends they recommended me this.

http://www.breville.com.au/beverages...e-grinder.html

Its a sub-$500 Burr Grinder and its just... simple. You twist the lid for fine-ness, twist the knob for the amount and press the little button. I keep on telling my parents off because they grind a big lot and leave it sitting there to go stale.
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Old Feb 12, 2013, 05:22 PM   #11
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Actually, from one of my Expresso fanatic friends they recommended me this.

http://www.breville.com.au/beverages...e-grinder.html

Its a sub-$500 Burr Grinder and its just... simple. You twist the lid for fine-ness, twist the knob for the amount and press the little button. I keep on telling my parents off because they grind a big lot and leave it sitting there to go stale.
This is the better one:
http://www.sunbeam.com.au/products/kitchen/em0490/

Not a bad one for the money. I've got a Gino Rossi CC45a, so a bit of overkill, but those of you who've been around here a while know I'm very obssessive about coffee.

On the topic of coffee grounds, never put them down the sink or drain, they can block it. Take the portafilter holder to the bin and empty it there as they do in cafes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrink View Post
Below is a knock box. There are many different sizes, shapes and materials...but they all have in common a hevily padded rubber bar. When you remove the portafilter from the machine after producing a drink, you invert the portafilter and rap it sharply on the bar...knocking the puck out.

The rubber bar protects the portafilter and the flange on the filter basket from damage, which might occur if you knock it in a harder surface, and keeps the pucks in one place.

Some people save the pucks and use them for mulch!!
Yes, you can do that too, and the knock box is okay for that. But the smaller ones are too small IMO, so I just empty the portafilter with a couple of sharp taps against the side of a bin. The Nuova Simonelli portafilter holders are so heavily built you could use them as lethal weapons, so they are pretty resistant to damage. Very nice that they are the same as the Aurelia ones, so if something should go wrong, getting a replacement one is easy and cheap.
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Old Feb 14, 2013, 07:27 PM   #12
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Got my machine. Pulled my first shot today. not sure what it was supposed to taste like, but I enjoyed it.

For some reason though when making it, one side pours out slower than the other.
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 01:33 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by eric/ View Post
I'm looking to get into espresso making and was wanting to get some opinons from those with experience.

I have ~ $500 budget

So from what I've read so far, the #1 thing you need is a good grinder, correct? I was looking at the Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder as my first grinder.

I've also received numerous suggestions to purchas the Gaggia Classic for my machine.

I'm really looking to make lattes and specialty drinks like that more than anything else.

Any suggestions?
Hi...I'm the espresso freak sandboxgeneral referred to in his post. The poor man made the mistake of asking for some advice about starting to make espresso at home, and now his life is a living hell with my insane instruction.

YOU"VE BEEN WARNED!!!

OK, the general rule of thumb is to spend about the same amount on the grinder as you do on your espresso machine...up to about $200.

See link for some information:

http://coffeegeek.com/guides/howtobu...ne/getagrinder

I looked at the grinder you suggested and my concern about it is that it only has 16 grind settings. Maybe OK if you are making french press coffee, or even drip coffee, but really not enough fine adjustments for expresso. Ideally you want a "stepless" grinder. That means the grinder control doesn't "click", but moves with infinite adjustment. What I have is (until tomorrow, when I get my new grinder) a grinder with 55 adjustments. It's a Rancilio Rocky grinder, but it's a bit expensive. What you want to do is look for a BURR grinder with as many adjustments as you can afford and you should be spending about $200 or so on your grinder.

In descending order, the most important elements of making espresso is:

the coffee bean
The grinder
the proper tamp
the espresso machine.

So the grinder is the second most important element, and the first most important piece of machinery. The bean, clearly, is the most important element. You can have a $3,000 machine, and a $1,000 grinder, and if you put crappy coffee in, you'll get crappy coffee out...GIGO.

I do not recommend a spice grinder at all. And under NO CIRCUMSTANCES get a grinder with blades...only consider a BURR grinder. Either a flat or conical burr grinder. Blade (spice) grinders are NOT for espresso. Other grinds, perhaps, but not espresso.

As for the machine...Gaggia makes a good entry level machine. I had a Gaggia Baby Class, and it was excellent for the price. Easy to use, pretty forgiving for the beginner, and not too expensive. I don't have experience with the Classic, but when I get done typing this I'll go over and look at the specs. The internal materials on Gaggia machines is pretty good for the price...that's a lot of what you pay for in the machine. Also, you want the machine to put out 12-15 BARS of pressure...which the Gaggia probably has.

OK, I'll stop now, and go look at the specs of the Classic.

I'll...be...back...
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 01:57 PM   #14
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I checked out the Classic...it looks good.

A couple of caveats:

Read the reviews...a lot of information there.

If you are a total newbie, the Gaggia machines, like many others, is a bit fussy. So while you are learning to tamp and adjust the grind, you might have some problems pulling good shots. This is true of any machine, really, since you with be learning two skills at the same time. You will be controlling two variables...the grind and the tamp. Having two variables to juggle is quite difficult. When you are trying to get the proper extraction time for your shots, it's best to only have one variable to control. If the extraction time is off, it's hard to adjust both the tamp and the grind to correct the problem effecting the extraction time.

Having said all that, it certainly can be done. Believe me, if I could do it, so can you. It just really lengthens out the learning curve.
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 02:21 PM   #15
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I've subscribed to the thread because Shrink has a vast knowledge of this stuff and I don't want to miss anything. I'm a newbie of espresso making as of last week.
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 03:31 PM   #16
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 05:58 PM   #17
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Congratulations, Mate. Enjoy your delicious drink!!

Don't let the messiness bother you. Espresso, cappucino, etc. are a messy business. Clean up is an essential element of the life of the espresso aficionado .
Nah, I'm not too worried about the mess of it. I figured it came with the territory. Although I was half-torn between enjoying my lattè and cleaning the machine at the same time!
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 06:37 PM   #18
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Nah, I'm not too worried about the mess of it. I figured it came with the territory. Although I was half-torn between enjoying my lattè and cleaning the machine at the same time!
I suggest you drink it while it's hot.

So what if your kitchen is a little messy...
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Old Jan 23, 2013, 07:31 PM   #19
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Those that just want to dip their toes into the water, so to say, do not have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars. The first 85-90% of the experience is not that expensive. That last few percentages of quality are what costs.

Kind of like a lot of things!

The experts here are of course enthusiasts and the OP did say he would spend $500, so the recommendations are totally understandable and something along the lines of what I might do someday when my cheap gift machine dies. Still, I like the espresso it makes and have learned a lot about the process and what I like.
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 07:09 AM   #20
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Made a nice latte this morning. My layering technique is coming along nicely I think. I'm still using whole milk (lactose free) for the frothing, but I will be getting either 2% or fat free just for making latte's as I understand they froth much better.

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Old Feb 2, 2013, 07:21 AM   #21
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Made a nice latte this morning. My layering technique is coming along nicely I think. I'm still using whole milk (lactose free) for the frothing, but I will be getting either 2% or fat free just for making latte's as I understand they froth much better.

Image
Beautiful. I'm still saving up.
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 07:30 AM   #22
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Beautiful. I'm still saving up.
This was done with an $80 espresso machine. Well, really $200, but with Amazon Prime I got it at $120 off. Plus a few accessories, 10oz frothing pitcher, latte specific thermometer, stainless steel canister, and double-wall insulated glass cafe latte.

So my total espresso cost to date is $182.09 not including the cost of the coffee itself.
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 07:30 AM   #23
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Made a nice latte this morning. My layering technique is coming along nicely I think. I'm still using whole milk (lactose free) for the frothing, but I will be getting either 2% or fat free just for making latte's as I understand they froth much better.

Image
By Jove, I think he's got it!!!

I know diddley about making cappuccino or latte, but the one thing I have read, as SandboxGeneral said, is that 2% or fat free foams better than whole milk. I also recall reading that chilling the foaming pitcher in the fridge (or freezer?) also improves foaming.

Nice going, Mate!
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 01:24 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by SandboxGeneral View Post
Made a nice latte this morning. My layering technique is coming along nicely I think. I'm still using whole milk (lactose free) for the frothing, but I will be getting either 2% or fat free just for making latte's as I understand they froth much better.

Image
Nice job, but that's an Espresso Macchiato. If you fill the cup completely up with milk and have it dilute the coffee, it's a Cappuccino. Then you pour it into a larger glass and fill that one to the top with warm frothed milk, and you have a Latte (Macchiato). If you were then to add another shot of Espresso, you'd have a Caffe Latte.

The whole milk thing an it's associated nomenclature is so complicated that I prefer double-shots without sugar or Splenda.

I can recommend Zicaffθ Crema in Tazza Superiore btw, I'd prefer it over Illy anytime. You can order it online directly from Zicaffθ, they ship only recently roasted coffee and it arrives within 3 days in the US.

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Old Feb 2, 2013, 01:58 PM   #25
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Nice job, but that's an Espresso Macchiato. If you fill the cup completely up with milk and have it dilute the coffee, it's a Cappuccino. Then you pour it into a larger glass and fill that one to the top with warm frothed milk, and you have a Latte (Macchiato). If you were then to add another shot of Espresso, you'd have a Caffe Latte.

The whole milk thing an it's associated nomenclature is so complicated that I prefer double-shots without sugar or Splenda.

I can recommend Zicaffθ Crema in Tazza Superiore btw, I'd prefer it over Illy anytime. You can order it online directly from Zicaffθ, they ship only recently roasted coffee and it arrives within 3 days in the US.
Very interesting distinctions on milk drinks.

But sugar/Splenda!!!

OMG!!!

Blasphemy!!!

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