October 25, 2018

Coffee is a language in itself

First Published - February 25, 2008 

We held another Espresso Emergency Room a couple of weekends ago – a hands-on clinic for home espresso users joined us the Union Roastery cupping room along with their own trusty espresso machines lugged from their own kitchens.

We tinkered with a selection of Gaggia domestic machines, two Rancillios, La Pavoni lever, Krups and even a trusty stovetop appeared.

The Kitchen Aid – reasonable to good shots but the tiny little steam nozzle (!!!) takes a heck of a long time to produce enough foam for one cappuccino. But with some patience a tight, textured, glossy meringue foam can be produced.

The Rancillios on first look have good build quality, robust brass group head really solid. With two machines on the table – one was producing water in low 90’s C and the other was 96-97 C– even trying to “manage” this by flushing the group heads was still problematic. Running water off the group for 10-15 secs brought the temp down but merely served to demonstrate the capacity of the boilers was insufficient as the performance was unstable. Small boilers, common on domestic machines lack capacity to stablise at a lower temp before the temp plummets down in a straight line.

The shots showed burnt crema and taste- playing with the grind and dose weights achieved good body – but lacked sweetness. Checking with the thermocouple probe – recorded 96C.

The best on the day was the little Gaggia – solid, robust, but the gaggia burr grinder couldn’t quite achieve the fineness to get the balance. But coupled with our Mazzer Mini, Revelation yielded – sweet red blackcurrant upfront, almond marzipan with dark choc lingering final notes.

The planned 3 hour session extended to 5 hours – so I think everyone had a good time. The event highlighted the difference between domestic & commercial machines although some machines appear to have a full size group head with solid construction, the domestic machines don’t get close to the turbo drive that we expect.

The La Pavoni – unfortunately just served to reinforce the view – asthetically pleasing, but injecting water into a group head from a boiler can only ever burn the coffee! Bare in mind we’re talking about premium delicate arabica -as apposed to commercial robusta based blends that can tolerate a wide temp because, in our opinion, they lack finesse.

It was a real eye opener when giving everyone a chance to play on the Linea and GB5 – most impressive aspect was the shear raw power apparent in the steam wands like stepping from a a Skoda to getting behind a 911. Not a criticism of the owners machines, just a comparison of the amazing power generated from the professional machines.

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