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james 04-24-2007 02:29 AM

Coffee Machines
Our old hand-pump La Pavoni espresso machine just died, which is very sad. After months of practice, I was finally getting good, consistent results from it. Still, one would be great, and the next so-so, the next pretty good, and so on. It was a great thing to learn, and another brush with the traditional world.

Now I have a modern, mass-produced machine that takes 1/3 the time to use, and makes a consistently pretty good espresso. Never great, never bad. I guess that's the modern world.


billrd 04-24-2007 02:56 AM

Re: Coffee Machines

So far I've resisted the urge to to buy an espresso machine and confined myself to a french press plunger coffee maker. Although I've occasionally been tempted to buy one of those Italian stove top espresso pots. Are they any good?
The other contraption that has occasionally caught my interest is the vacuum siphon type coffeemaker which also goes on the stove top. The guy I buy my coffee beans from claims they make an excellent cup of coffee but you don't see them around much.


james 04-24-2007 04:39 AM

Re: Coffee Machines
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We always use the Moka Express when we are travelling and have access to a cooktop. It's a nice middle ground between an espresso machine and a plunger, giving you a more dense and robust coffee than your plunger makes. A good espresso machine gives you a crema, which you can only get by pushing hot water through the coffee under pressure.

Here's something from the Bialetti site. Amazing. And a photo.

BIALETTI produces over 16,000 coffee makers per day, 4 million per year and in Italy, 9 out of 10 families have a BIALETTI espresso maker in their homes. Over 250 million units have been sold .

Now Michael is a serious coffee guy (he's been to Coffee University at Illy) -- I wonder what he thinks about the Moka and the french plunger.

Bacterium 04-24-2007 07:54 AM

Re: Coffee Machines
I used to use a plunger for years until I broke it. :o

About a year ago I ended up buying an Auto Espresso unit (Saeco). It makes a nice freshly ground coffee everyday....yeah its convenience
but among friends/family who have manual espresso units they really beat mine for taste.
I read somewhere the quality of the grinder is a big factor to a good coffee (. among other things).

I think most of them buy it pre ground or use a cheap grinder.
Maybe if they sorted that its likely they could beat the auto as they can manually control areas that you can't with the auto.

DrakeRemoray 04-24-2007 08:42 AM

Re: Coffee Machines
I love my capresso M1000....grinds tamps brews and cleans itself. I am using Lavazza Gold whole beans.

Overall not as good as I had in Italy, but much better than any coffee I get anywere else in the US, with the exception of SOME (not all) high end restaurants.

I grew up in Miami and drank lots of excellent, very cheap cuban coffee...


michael 04-24-2007 12:18 PM

Re: Coffee Machines
Ooh! La! La! A coffee thread on a pizza forum! I've spent the last 11 years of my life helping people make great coffee in their coffee bars and cafes throughout Europe, and I've learned you can make verrrrry good coffee at home if you follow some simple rules. Hey! we've said the same thing about pizza dough haven't we?

Let's have a bit of Coffee 101! Bare in mind we are talking about three different coffee cuisines in this discussion. The Moka (percolated) is the oldest of the three and takes it's lead from Turkish coffee but the Italians found a way to filter out the grounds. This brewing method is not miles away from the pot my parents had on the stove that made the plop! plop! sound. Italians love strong coffee so the Moka is their coffee of choice at home, it's cheap and cheerful, 15,00 euros and you're in business. In fact I'll bet every Italian couple receives three of them as wedding gifts. With a high total dissolved solids of about 1600ppm, the Moka produces a strong coffee, not quite the same, but close to the one Mario makes down at the cafe, but Mario's machine costs 4000,00 euros!

Espresso is the next cuisine - this coffee is brewed under pressure (about 130 psi), has a short brewing time (25 seconds) and as a result of this pressure has the distinctive crema, which is nothing more than emulsified oil droplets... yummmy! Espresso is verrrrry strong coffee with total dissolved solids of 2000ppm - IF, and that's a big IF, the person making the coffee understands the rules, which sadly is not always the case. We espresso loves want some taste....give me my parts-per-million please! To make espresso properly at home you need to spend $700+ and this presents a barrier to home consumption for most people...let's go visit Mario, he makes great espresso and it only costs $1.50!

Then we move on to filter coffee which is the lightest of all the coffee cuisines with about 1100-1300ppm. This is the coffee cuisine of North America and we all grew up with a filter coffee pot in the kitchen. Americans like a weaker brew, we like to linger over a mug of coffee, much like the English do with tea. Well, the French have the same problem Italians do at home, they like a stronger coffee, just go to a bar in France and ask for a coffee in your best'll get an espresso. I think we have to thank the Belgium's for the French press, but it has become the devise of choice for the French speaking world. I have three different sizes at home and use them often because as an espresso drinker I can use 10+ grams of coffee per cup in mine and make a nice strong brew at about 1500ppm.....give me my parts-per-million!

So, what are the rules? Always use the freshest coffee you can, grinding to order is the very best thing you can do to ensure a quality cup. Pre-ground coffee looses most of it's flavour within hours...not good! Second, understand that each of the coffee cuisines require a different particle size. I'll use sugar as an example, Turkish coffee requires a very fine grind, similar to powdered sugar, Espresso requires a grind closer to caster or fine sugar. Filter coffee requires a grind similar in size to brown sugar, Cafetiere or French press require a particle size just a bit larger than Filter (to ensure you don't have grounds in your cup) and Moka is right between Espresso and Filter.

Next, make sure you are using the right coffee to water ratio so your parts-per-million are correct (sorry that might be another class), with espresso I want 7-8 grams per cup. Less than 7 grams too light, not enough flavour, above 8 grams too strong, too many parts per million, it's starts to taste excessively bitter.

Next....choose the right coffee for your coffee maker. By that I mean origin coffees vs blends. The rule is simple, blends can be used in all coffee can only be used in filter and French presses. Again, more on that another time.

So, if any of you are planning to open a wood-burning pizzeria...after your oven is installed and everyone is trained, let's go have a look at your coffee!

billrd 04-24-2007 03:13 PM

Re: Coffee Machines

I read somewhere that the Italian Moka differs from the old type percolators in that the water only passes through ground coffee once thus avoiding the bitter taste of a percolator percolating too long, is this true?

Also which cuisine does these vacuum siphon coffeemakers fit into? Filter?


michael 04-24-2007 04:10 PM

Re: Coffee Machines

Yes, water in the Moka only passes through once and is probably the reason these old percolators are not around anymore....the coffee was burnt and over-exracted.

Sorry I've been away from the US coffee scene for a long time, by siphon are you referring to the chrome, vacuum pump coffee dispensers you see in some Starbuck's style coffee bars? If so, yes, this is modern filter coffee brewing equipment and does a very good job in protecting the coffee from two problems. First the old 3 pint glass coffee pots that sit on a burner do just that...burn the coffee! These so called warming units would allow the coffee to sit and stew, the water would vaporize leaving behind a stronger and stronger coffee because the total dissolved solids would gradually increase due to water loss. TDS would increase to something like 1450-1600ppm and would then register on the palate as "too strong". The second reason these new "airpots", as they're called, have been a God sent to filter coffee, is they then keep the coffee at perfect temperature for 45min to an hour.

I hope you've found this helpful.

billrd 04-24-2007 07:31 PM

Re: Coffee Machines
Thanks for all the great information, I think I'll get me a Moka.
The vacuum siphon device I am talking about is like 2 glass spheres, one sitting on top of the other.
They are somehow connected. Water is put in the bottom one and I'm not sure where the ground coffee sits but the whole device is put on a cooktop. As the water heats it is drawn up into the top sphere through the ground coffee.
I think you somehow finish up with the brewed coffee in the bottom sphere and you disconnect the top section and use the bottom section which has a handle to serve.
I have only seen pictures of them, I believe Bodum makes one, and I have seen a couple of french brands on Ebay. They are often sold in a set which includes a candle or spirit burner to keep the coffee warm.
The supposed benefit of this device is that the water is drawn through the ground coffee at the exact best temperature to extract the most flavour.

jahysea 04-25-2007 10:59 AM

Re: Coffee Machines
Great information Michael. Like Bacterium we have a Saeco automatic machine. We love it for the simplicity and quality. Push 1 button and a fresh consistent product every time. Perfect in that neither my wife or I has to drink stale leftovers from whoever was up first.

I think that you are saying that we need to use blends of beans rather than specific origin coffee? Why is this out of curiosity?

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